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Officials behind windmill project off Atlantic City say they expect to begin producing energy by Labor Day 2013

ATLANTIC CITY – A company that plans to build what could be the nation’s first offshore windmills said it was all but ready to break ground and begin construction on its multimillion-dollar project, with a goal of being up and running and turning out power by Labor Day 2013.

Fishermen’s Energy of Cape May hopes to obtain a decision from the state Board of Public Utilities in March on its proposal to sell electricity from its offshore windmill proposal, the company’s vice president and senior counsel Paul Gallagher said in remarks Thursday during the Metropolitan Business and Citizens Association’s annual Winter Luncheon Business Meeting at Bally’s Atlantic City.

“We have arranged our financing, selected our turbines and lined up our contractors,” Gallagher said. “We are, in what Obamaspeak refers to, as ‘shovel ready.'”

Once the decision is in hand, Gallagher said, the company would mobilize through the summer and begin construction on the mainland after Labor Day.

“This will allow us to put steel in the water next summer (2013), with turbines installed in August and power being generated by Labor Day 2013,” Gallagher said.

Fishermen’s Energy’s $220 million project would place five turbines in the ocean about 2.8 miles off Atlantic City, generating about 25 megawatts of power. Gallagher said it would employ 240 workers during construction and create about 35 permanent jobs. The line would come ashore near Tennessee Avenue and connect to the regional power grid.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average U.S. family consumes 10,655 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. One megawatt of wind energy can manufacture anywhere from 2.4 million to 3 million kilowatt-hours every year.

The towers would be easily visible from the beach in most weather.

“What we are building is not just the first (offshore) wind farm in America. We are building a new industry for America,” Gallagher said.

The company has taken steps forward while support for other offshore windmill projects, such as one in Nantucket Sound off Massachusetts, has languished. In that case, energy officials do not expect a planned $2.6 billion wind farm to begin producing energy until at least 2015.

Many proposals are at least partially dependent on government energy subsidies, which have been under heightened scrutiny since the California solar company Solyndra laid off 1,100 workers in August and filed for bankruptcy after receiving $535 million in federal loan guarantees.

Fishermen’s Energy is one of a handful of companies that has repeatedly said it plans to go forward. In recent months, the company installed a device on a Margate apartment building roof to measure wind. The company will use the device to make detailed weather measurements, ultimately helping developers and engineers place gear.

The current state energy master plan calls for expanded windpower. In August 2010, Gov. Chris Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, which calls for 1,100 megawatts of wind energy by the end of 2012.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.