A private developer aiming to build a multistate wind power backbone off the Atlantic Coast has selected New Jersey as the first phase of construction in its offshore underwater transmission line, a representative for the company confirmed.
Work on the New Jersey Energy Link transmission line would begin in 2016, the first of three phases, said a representative for the company, Atlantic Grid Development, which plans to make the announcement Tuesday. The New Jersey portion would be partly operational by 2019, the representative said.
The offshore high voltage cable project, called Atlantic Wind Connection, would link wind energy farms up and down New Jersey, connecting an estimated 3,000 megawatts of wind turbine electricity to power nearly 1 million households, according to the company website. The entire undertaking will take an estimated 10 years to complete, span 300 miles of state and federal waters and connect up to 7,000 megawatts of wind turbine electricity.
The proposed hubs would be in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
Investors include Google, Bregal Energy, Marubeni Corp. and Elia, a Belgian-based transmission system operator.
New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan calls for a minimum of 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity to be developed in the state by 2020. Today, there are no offshore wind farms in New Jersey though a coalition of commercial fishermen is the furthest along, having applied for offshore wind incentives to the state Board of Public Utilities.
The group, Fishermen’s Energy, intends to build a small offshore wind farm three miles off the coast of Atlantic City, which could power up to 10,000 homes.
While New Jersey is among the most attractive states to sell electricity, offshore wind farms remain a costly undertaking with an as yet unproven economic payoff, said Travis Miller, director of utilities at Morning Star Research.
“They require substantial state or federal subsidies to incentivize new wind power development,” Miller said. “But New Jersey has one of the most favorable environments for solar construction in terms of subsidies. Given the state’s receptiveness to solar energy, it’s not out to the question the government could develop a framework that supports wind.”
And there is interest. In 2011, federal officials announced plans to fast-track offshore wind, with 11 companies filing to stake a claim and construct clusters of huge turbines in federal waters 12 miles off the coast of New Jersey.
But financing has proven a major obstacle and in October, wind project developer NRG Bluewater Wind lost a $3 million commitment from the state. The company maintains it still has a lease agreement to build a tower off the coast.
Atlantic Wind Connection said it intends to create about 1,980 direct construction and operations jobs in New Jersey, including Gloucester, Atlantic and Ocean counties, claiming it will pump $9 billion into the economy and bolster state and local tax revenues by $2.2 billion.
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