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Appeals court orders state board to reconsider Atlantic City windfarm  

Credit:  BY WALLACE McKELVEY, Staff Writer | The Press of Atlantic City | August 18, 2014 | www.pressofatlanticcity.com ~~

An appellate court has ordered the state Board of Public Utilities to reconsider a wind farm 3 miles off Atlantic City.

The order requires the BPU to reconsider Fishermen’s Energy’s application to build the 25-megawatt project – which it rejected in April while citing costs to ratepayers – using supplemental information.

“This is a big win both for Fishermen’s Energy and the state of New Jersey,” said Fishermen’s CEO Chris Wissemann.

This time, the BPU would have to consider the Cape May-based firm’s proposed $199-per-megawatt-hour price as opposed to the $263-per-MWH price it used in its prior decision. According to court documents, the BPU would also be required to deliver its findings within 120 days of the order, dated Aug. 8 but not publicly released until Monday.

“We believe that the record, as now supplemented clearly and unambiguously, supports Fishermen’s position and we fully expect that the BPU will now grant its application,” said Mike Stein, an attorney for Fishermen’s Energy.

A spokeswoman for the BPU declined to comment Monday.

Despite the BPU rejection, Fishermen’s Energy was awarded $47 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy in May to build the $200 million project in state waters. Company officials have said they could begin construction as soon as they secure the final approval.

The Cape May-based firm is simultaneously pursuing a lease for a larger project in federal waters 7 miles offshore. That project would cost an estimated $2 billion.

Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, said the appellate decision marks a positive move toward wind energy.

“Hopefully, it’s a good wake-up call for the BPU,” he said.

While the court order requires the BPU to reconsider Fishermen’s Energy’s application, it does not outline a specific course of action. That means the BPU could still ultimately reject it.

“We hope the BPU has an open mind and, more importantly, that we get the financing rules in place so we can better judge these kinds of projects,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

In 2010, Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation that designated a port on the Delaware River for the development of turbines and an annual goal of generating 1,100 megawatts of wind energy. Since then, however, little progress has been made and necessary guidelines for the industry haven’t been finalized.

“That’s one of the things that makes it difficult for wind companies to do offshore wind projects,” Tittel said. “It makes financing more difficult.”

But even as state projects have faced hurdles, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has moved forward with a plan to sell two leases across nearly 344,000 acres in federal waters. That area could generate an estimated 3,400 megawatts, or enough to power about 1.2 million homes. Those leases would still require state approvals in order for developers to transmit their energy back to New Jersey.

While the BPU could reverse course following the appeal, Tittel said, the political climate to date could mean New Jersey loses out on wind energy to its neighbors. For instance, he said, wind power harnessed off New Jersey may be routed through Long Island.

“For now, unless the political winds change, that power may end up in New York,” he said.

For its part, Fishermen’s Energy remains optimistic about the prospects of its 25-megawatt project.

“It is time for the state government to fulfill the promise of offshore wind in New Jersey and launch the investment, the jobs and the economic development that is waiting to be unleashed, in Atlantic City and across the State,” said COO Paul Gallagher.

Source:  BY WALLACE McKELVEY, Staff Writer | The Press of Atlantic City | August 18, 2014 | www.pressofatlanticcity.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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