The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held an offshore land lease sale for the purposes of developing future wind farms on Monday, Nov. 9. Although a locally held company, Fishermen’s Energy, participated in the auction, it lost out to two other concerns.
US Wind Inc. won the right to develop the Wind Energy Area off Ocean and Atlantic counties by bidding$1,006,240 for 183,353 acres, Outer Continental Shelf Lease Area 0499. RES America Developments Inc. won the right to develop the 160,480 Wind Energy Area acres from Atlantic City south to Cape May County, paying $880,715 for Lease Area OCS-A 0498.
The New Jersey Wind Energy Area starts about 7 nautical miles offshore and extends roughly 21 nautical miles seaward. To see a map of the New Jersey Wind Energy Area, go to boem.gov/New–Jersey.
Each lease will have a preliminary term of one year, during which the lessee will submit a site assessment plan to BOEM for approval. A site assessment plan describes the activities (installation of meteorological towers and buoys) a lessee plans to perform for the assessment of the wind resources and ocean conditions of its commercial lease area.
Fishermen’s Energy Chief Operating Official Paul Gallagher was not available for comment on Tuesday.
Fishermen’s Energy was developed in 2007 by a consortium of eight commercial fishing and dock facilities along the East Coast from Massachusetts to Virginia. In New Jersey, Viking Village in Barnegat Light, Atlantic Cape Fisheries and Cold Spring Fish and Supply Co. are some of the partners.
The idea was to take a leadership role in building wind energy farms that would be sensitive to fishing areas and the marine environment.
On Tuesday, Mayor Kirk Larson, owner of three scallop boats at Viking Village and a partner in Fishermen’s Energy, said he thought the land leases went fairly cheaply, but the consortium just could not match the amounts. He would not speculate on what it means for Fishermen’s Energy going forward.
“We’re still a company,” he asserted. “It was the BPU that hurt us. The federal government loves us; they gave us the $51 million grant.”
Fishermen’s Energy’s plans to build a demonstration site consisting of five wind turbines 2.8 miles off the Atlantic City coast that would generate 25 megawatts to power 10,000 homes has all of the necessary permits in hand but for the past four years has been unable to get approval from the Christie administration’s Board of Public Utilities. The BPU has been instructed to develop a system of Offshore Wind Credits to allow investors to buy into the project but has failed to do that despite its being one of the key provisions of the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act of 2010. Offshore wind renewable energy credits would function like solar energy credits – and would make financial assistance and tax credits for existing businesses that construct, manufacture, assemble and support the development of qualified offshore wind projects. When he signed it into law, Gov. Christie said his administration was committed to making New Jersey a national leader in wind power.
Despite losing out on the large land leases, a Nov. 9 press release from FE’s COO, Paul Gallagher, stated that the New Jersey Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee approved an amendment to the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act that requires the New Jersey BPU to open a “window” to solicit new proposals for a small wind project off Atlantic City. Gallagher expects that the full Assembly and Senate will pass the bill by year-end and revive Fishermen’s Energy’s demonstration wind farm.
The timing may be crucial as it will take U.S. Wind and RESS time to develop site assessment plans; the lessees have 4½ years to submit a construction and operations plan. This plan provides detailed information for the construction and operation of a wind energy project on the lease to BOEM for approval. Only then will BOEM conduct an environmental review of that proposed project and gather public input. If the COP is approved, the lessee will have an operation term of 25 years, at a cost of $3 per acre annually.
According to a BOEM press release, an analysis made by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that if the two leases are fully developed, the area could support about 3,400 megawatts of commercial wind generation, enough electricity to power about 1.2 million homes.
BOEM has awarded nine additional commercial offshore wind leases, including seven through the competitive lease sale process: two in an area off the shore of Rhode Island-Massachusetts, another two off Massachusetts, two off Maryland and one off Virginia.
“Today’s auction underscores the emerging market demand for renewable energy and marks another major step in standing up a sustainable offshore wind program for Atlantic coast communities,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “Through extensive outreach and public engagement, we reduced potential use conflicts while moving the country closer to harnessing the enormous potential of wind energy along the Atlantic coast.”
In July, Jewell joined Rhode Island officials to celebrate the start of construction on Deepwater Wind’s $225 million, 30-megawatt offshore wind project that will provide electricity to Block Island and Rhode Island mainland consumers.
Plans for Wind Farms Run Afoul of Scalloping Grounds
Meanwhile, Barnegat Light Mayor Larson joined other commercial fishermen at a Nov. 6 public hearing held by BOEM in Point Pleasant. Larson represented about 200 fishermen and their families that run scallop boats out of Viking Village in Barnegat Light.
The 30 or so fishermen who were able to attend the meeting all protested BOEM’s proposed land leases off Point Pleasant and Long Island (N.Y.) where known ocean scallop beds are commercially dredged.
“That’s why we started Fishermen’s Energy; we wanted to control our own destiny,” said Larson.
“Some guy just drew a map on the land: This is where the winds are heaviest, right over the scallop grounds. I said, ‘There’s lots of wind out there; couldn’t you just move it further east?’” said Larson on Tuesday.
The proposed areas for wind farms off Long Island would also affect the squid fishery and mackerel catches, he said. “It’s not just scallops. It could affect who knows how many fisheries.”
The workshops by BOEM are intended to provide the Department of the Interior with a better understanding of how the area, known as the New York Call area, is used for fishing before it determines which areas should be made available for leasing. Larsen said the BOEM officials did not give a timeline on when decisions might be forthcoming on the boundaries for these wind energy leases.
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