The state Board of Public Utilities decided Thursday it would not sign off on an offshore windmill project until at least Oct. 2, allowing project reviewers to ask the proposed developers more questions.
The state has sought to generate 350 megawatts of power through the project, which would place dozens of windmills between eight and 20 miles off the coast of Atlantic and Cape May counties. The project could cost as much as $1 billion.
By comparison, the coal-burning B.L. England power plant in Upper Township produces 214 megawatts.
The BPU was originally scheduled to take recommendations from its windmill evaluation committee at the Aug. 20 meeting.
When BPU commissioners questioned the extension, board President Jeanne M. Fox said, “We need to get this right. … We’ve never been through this before.”
“But I don’t want it going into 2010,” Commissioner Joseph L. Fiordaliso said.
Afterward, BPU Commissioner Nicholas Asselta and staff suggested this pilot program may not be the end of the state’s push toward wind power. Developers may choose to expand their projects.
Michael Winka, the BPU’s Clean Energy office director, said that Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s proposed state energy master plan calls for eventually generating 1,000 megawatts of electricity through wind power. That is several times the size of the 350 megawatt pilot project the BPU is currently considering.
The U.S. Minerals Management Service is preparing by the end of the year to lease six areas off the state’s coast to three companies that could build 100 meter towers to assess the strength of the wind, according to published reports. The service also plans to lease three slots off of Georgia and one off of Delaware.
The state is offering as much as $19 million spaced over five years as an enticement to developers. The proposed study area runs the 72 miles between Seaside Park, Monmouth County and Stone Harbor, from the coastline to 20 miles offshore.
But BPU files show several of the five proposed developers have sought tracts off Cape May or Atlantic counties.
The plans on file with the BPU indicate the windmills -in offshore arrays as large as 40 square miles – could be fully operational by 2013 nor 2014.
By Derek Harper
31 July 2008
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