Library filed under Offshore Wind from New Jersey
A new piece of legislation would push the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to follow through on a plan to promote offshore wind energy in Atlantic City.
The state Board of Public Utilities held firm the past couple of years in its rejection of a proposed Fishermen's Energy wind project off Atlantic City. The state should do the same regarding a federal push for wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean. ...If federal officials have a convincing argument that wind energy is so valuable for environmental reasons that customers and/or taxpayers should pay more for it, let them make that case to the nation and have all Americans pay for it.
New Jersey released its revised Energy Master Plan on Friday, which calls for greater energy resiliency and puts less faith in offshore wind.
Two energy companies won the rights to advance wind energy off New Jersey's coast, where the potential exists to power 1.2 million homes, the government said. The companies - RES America Developments and U.S. Wind Inc.- won the rights in a lease auction on Monday.
While Fishermen’s Energy has one more chance to appeal – to the U.S. Supreme Court — company officials said they do not plan to take that route. Instead, they have changed some of the details of their project to address the BPU’s concerns, including a change in the manufacturer of the turbines that will be used from XEMC to Siemens.
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.
BPU spokesman Greg Reinert said the agency is working with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and providing input on the lease sale. "This administration continues to support the development of sustainable, clean offshore wind energy production in a manner that is economically sound and that protects our ratepayers from exposure," Reinert said.
In a bid to prod the BPU to act, the state Senate passed a bill that would force the agency to approve the Fisherman’s Energy pilot project and exempt it from the BPU’s cost-benefit analysis. But the bill has not moved in the Assembly, and Christie could always veto it. When Christie revamped the state’s energy master plan in 2011, he noted the exceptionally high cost of electricity in New Jersey and emphasized that any offshore wind project must clear a high hurdle — the developers must prove the project would provide more of an immediate economic benefit than a burden to the state’s ratepayers.
The proposed 25-megawatt wind farm in shallow coastal waters already has been rejected twice by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, a decision upheld by a state appellate court last month. It is the only offshore wind project to come before the agency, which called the proposal too costly to utility customers who would help pay for the facility.
The state courts have sided with the Board of Public Utility noting the board did not believe the benefits outweighed "the risks and costs of using an unproven technology to produce electricity," according to the Press of Atlantic City.
Cape May-based Fishermen’s Energy on Friday lost another attempt seeking to build windmills three miles off the coast of Atlantic City. A state appeals court sided with the Board of Public Utility’s authority when it repeatedly rejected the offshore wind project on concerns it would be too costly for everyone who pays an electric bill.
A plan that promised to bring hundreds of jobs and alternative energy to New Jersey -- including construction at the Port of Paulsboro -- is indefinitely stalled as the federal government and the Board of Public Utilities have slowed down momentum for wind energy projects.
The plan, rejected three times by New Jersey utility regulators, is the subject of a court appeal due to be heard in March. But Fishermen's Energy is powering ahead with the plan anyway in order to take advantage of federal tax credits that expire at the end of the year.
In the Fishermen’s Energy case, homeowners and businesses would be the ones subsidizing the wind farm, through state agreements to buy the power at rates substantially above the cost of electricity in the open market. Wind turbines are a mature technology deployed all over the world, including much at sea, so the “demonstration” aspect of the project is not to show they work but to show sufficient subsidies and political gain can be lined up to do a lot more windmill development off the East Coast.
The state on Friday again rejected a pilot wind farm project off the New Jersey coast, arguing that the company's financial plan is unsound and would require a state subsidy so large it would make the energy produced too costly for ratepayers. The company vowed to appeal.
Backers view the bill as a marker that will be eventually accepted by a new administration, once Christie’s term ends in January 2018 -- or sooner, if the governor decides to run for president and resigns his office. “We are talking about policy over the next 36 years.’’
BPU commissioners have said the “Offshore Renewable Energy Certificates” (ORECs) — which are required to recoup the millions of dollars investors would spend on the wind farm — may be costlier than projected. That would leave ratepayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, the BPU contends.
The rules, allowing developers to earn Offshore Renewable Energy Credits (ORECs) for the electricity their wind turbines produce, were supposed to be in place by March 2011. ...BPU and offshore developers cannot agree on how the financing mechanism should be structured.
“We were not involved in those conversations [about the lease areas] during the call period,” Dillingham said. “Stakeholders of all types, not simply industry or developers, [should be] included in these conversations about the decisions that are going to be made.
The federal government has awarded $47 million to sweeten the deal for a $188 million project the Garden State has deemed too risky for ratepayers.