After losing its latest round in court, Fishermen’s Energy, LLC, is going with a smaller turbine and making other changes to its offshore wind proposal to address regulators’ concerns.
Instead of building five 5-megawatt turbines, the company’s new proposal calls for building six 4-megawatt turbines about 3 miles off Atlantic City.
The Cape May-based company has been at odds for years with the state Board of Public Utilities over its plan to build a $200 million demonstration-scale wind farm off the coast of Atlantic City.
The state Supreme Court this week declined to hear the company’s appeal of the BPU’s latest rejection of the project.
CEO Chris Wissemann said the company and BPU have not been able to discuss amendments to its proposal during its long litigation. That changed with this week’s unsuccessful appeal.
“We’ve been barred from talking to the BPU for a couple years. We hope to enter into a collaborative process,” he said.
The company plans to use proven Siemens turbines instead of those made by a Chinese company that was going to provide much of the project’s capital. Likewise, Wissemann said Fishermen’s Energy will use traditional financing.
“XEMC, a Chinese turbine manufacturer, had an appealing economic-development package for New Jersey. They were willing to invest in a factory in New Jersey and capitalize the entire project,” Wissemann said.
“The challenge was they only have a handful of these turbines installed. The BPU wasn’t comfortable with that,” he said.
The Siemens turbines are more efficient, which reduces the energy costs, he said.
Wissemann said the changes should make the project more appealing to regulators and stand up to scrutiny by the Office of Rate Counsel, which represents electric customers. That agency had already approved the previous application.
But Wissemann said a demonstration project offers other intangible benefits that will prove useful in the creation of this new American industry.
For example, proposed construction in New Jersey is limited to daylight hours when workers can keep watch for nearby marine mammals that might be affected by the noise and vibration of heavy equipment. This nighttime restriction would be impractical for a large-scale commercial project. So Fishermen’s Energy plans to test acoustic sensors to detect marine mammals even at night.
“We’re testing an acoustic net to listen for marine mammals and shut down construction if they’re there,” he said. “If that works, you could dramatically cut down the cost of construction because you could work through the night.”
Wissemann said the project could be built in about two years if Fishermen’s Energy can win BPU approval. The company is also pursuing a larger project in federal waters.