- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

Paulsboro port site vetted by wind energy firm

PAULSBORO – A Maryland-based developer proposing an offshore electrical transmission “highway” from Atlantic City to Jersey City is interested in building a manufacturing facility at the port of Paulsboro.

The “highway” would connect future wind turbines to electrical hubs.

Paulsboro is one of several port sites that officials from Atlantic Grid Development LLC are vetting for the location of a plant that would produce equipment needed to support the underwater, high-voltage cables connecting their proposed energy hubs, which would convert the electricity from AC into DC.

“What we’re proposing is an offshore, high-voltage, electrical transmission highway linking South Jersey to North Jersey so when wind turbines are built, they can connect to the system efficiently and at a lower cost,” said Markian Melnyk, president of Atlantic Grid Development. “New Jersey law sets out wind energy zones where they’re trying to attract investment in that sector, and the port of Paulsboro is a nice, big 200-acre site with deepwater access.”

The $274 million, 190-acre Port of Paulsboro project broke ground in October 2009 as the first new marine terminal facility on the Delaware River in more than 50 years.

According to Jay Jones, deputy executive director of the South Jersey Port Corporation, construction is slated for completion by the end of 2014.

Melnyk said his company is “looking very carefully” at the Paulsboro site as a place to manufacture the hubs, but it’s not the only possible site.

Based on comments made by project officials at a renewable-energy conference in New Brunswick last week, the developer could invest up to $2 billion in the New Jersey energy link, which could include the Paulsboro manufacturing plant.

The proposal is part of a larger backbone transmission project – dubbed by the developer the Atlantic Wind Connection – linking hubs in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey while promising to transmit up to 7,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy.

The project boasts Google as one of its backers.

New Jersey’s 2011 Energy Master Plan calls for the development of approximately 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2020.

However, despite backing from both Gov. Chris Christie’s administration and state environmentalists, offshore wind projects have continued to stall over the years. Officials have placed the blame on a lack of funding and looming questions regarding how much money ratepayers are willing to provide to establish Offshore Renewable Energy Certificates (ORECs), which the Board of Public Utilities hopes to use in subsidizing offshore wind energy projects.

Meanwhile, energy developers are unwilling to sign on to projects until the ORECs are set.

“We’ve been very aggressive on offshore wind energy – we have a memorandum of understanding with Fisherman’s Energy, and a couple of other groups have expressed interest as using the port of Paulsboro as a potential nexus for wind energy,” Jones said.

The Paulsboro port now under construction is “ideally located, in a safe harbor,” he added. “We’re also looking toward the potential for manufacturing to occur around the terminal, and not just for parts to come in and be assembled there.”

Despite the sluggish track record of previous offshore projects in the state, Atlantic Grid Development officials say they are optimistic.

“We are in discussions with New Jersey policy makers, and we’ve made significant progress on the federal level,” said Melnyk, adding that developers have applied for right-of-way from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the same entity in charge of leasing space for wind turbines in federal waters.

“There’s going to be a full environmental review,” he explained. “The permitting takes about one or two years, and there are various surveys that have to be completed.

“We’re happy with the progress we’ve made so far.”