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Assembly OKs bill to push wind power generation

A new piece of legislation would push the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to follow through on a plan to promote offshore wind energy in Atlantic City.

The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, was approved 48-21 by the Assembly on Thursday.

Fishermen’s Energy, a Cape May-based developer, has twice tried to build a wind farm off Atlantic City’s coast but the utilities board rejected it, citing excessive costs.

The state Supreme Court recently declined to hear the company’s appeal of the board’s latest rejection of the project.

The bill would allow the board to approve a qualified wind energy project off Atlantic City’s shore. The board would be required to provide a 30-day period for application submissions, and from time to time, provide a submission period that differs from the 30-day period.

Both the Legislature and the governor approved a plan for the state’s first major offshore wind farm in 2010.

But the state’s most recent Energy Master Plan calls for greater energy resiliency and puts less faith in offshore wind.

The aims of the energy plan, according to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, are to drive down costs for utility customers; promote a diverse portfolio of new, clean generation; reward energy efficiency and conservation; capitalize on the latest technology for production and distribution of power and reach 22.5 percent renewable power by 2021.
“While offshore wind may become a valuable energy resource, generating enough energy through offshore wind carries significant drawbacks,” the draft report says. “While the future may bring change, offshore wind in the U.S. is not economically viable at this time.”

Fishermen’s Energy’s project, a 25-megawatt wind farm that has the potential to bring more than 500 jobs to the area, has been approved for $47 million in federal grants, Mazzeo said in a news release.

“We have the opportunity to make our state a leader in the wind energy industry and put men and women in the Atlantic City region back to work,” Mazzeo said. “It’s disappointing that the only thing that’s been standing in the way for the past four and a half years is the BPU.”

Fishermen’s Energy CEO Chris Wissemann said the project could be built in about two years if Fishermen’s Energy can win BPU approval. The company recently failed to win a larger project in federal waters.