A coalition of developers has won a federal grant for up $47 million toward construction of a wind farm off the Atlantic City coast, funds the group hopes will breath new life into a project twice rejected by New Jersey regulators.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced the grant award today along with two other projects in Oregon and Virginia that it called “pioneering offshore wind demonstrations,” according to the DOE news release. Seven offshore wind projects had applied for the funding.
Backed by a coalition of investors called Fishermen’s Energy, the proposed $188 million wind farm would be built 2.8 miles off the Atlantic City coast. The state Board of Public Utilities rejected the proposal in March, then again last month when the four board commissioners refused to reconsider.
Under the plan, five wind turbines would generate 25 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 10,000 homes. There are currently no offshore wind farms in the United States.
Fishermen’s Energy, which has filed a court appeal to overturn the BPU’s decision, said in a statement it believes the grant is enough to warrant another BPU hearing. Two New Jersey environmental advocacy groups also applauded the federal grant.
“No other project in America is more prepared to put steel in the water and this recognition by the Department of Energy acknowledges that fact,” Dan Cohen, Fishermen’s Energy chairman and founder, said in a statement.
But the BPU did not see it that way. Commissioners concluded the project would leave ratepayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, questioned investors’ financial integrity and added the project leaned too heavily on unsecured federal grants.
One of those grants was the one announced today, which awards up to $47 million over the next four years to “deploy innovative, grid-connected systems in federal and state waters by 2017,” the Department of Energy said. All three projects, it said, build on the federal government’s efforts to launch “a competitive and sustainable offshore wind industry in the United States.”
The Fishermen’s Energy project in particular, it said, will utilize U.S.-developed technology that is “less expensive to manufacture and install than traditional offshore wind foundations. Fishermen’s project will act as a laboratory for researchers to learn about offshore wind and investigate interactions between turbines,” according to the grant award.
Fishermen’s Energy is still awaiting a federal energy tax credit for an estimated $50 million.
Doug O’Malley, executive director of Environment New Jersey, called on the BPU to “revisit its shortsighted decision in light of this funding. Fishermen’s Energy case just got a whole lot stronger. This is a win for New Jersey.”
A spokesman for the BPU would not comment, citing the appeal.
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