A Cape May-based company has wanted to build windmills off Atlantic City’s coast for more than half a decade but has found continued resistance.
The state Board of Public Utilities rejected the company’s plans several times, claiming the energy it would generate would be too expensive and that the cost would be subsidized by electricity payers.
Earlier this month, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have breathed some life back into the plan for a small, 25 megawatt windfarm about three miles off Atlantic City.
Fishermen’s Energy Chief Operating Officer Paul Gallagher believes there is still potential for offshore windmills in New Jersey and for his project.
But he doesn’t expect it anytime soon.
“I think that it may take a change in the Governor’s Office for an offshore renewable energy grant to be fully functional in New Jersey,” Gallagher said.
Still, companies are looking at wind energy farther off South Jersey’s coast.
In November, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management auctioned two area leases at least seven miles off South Jersey’s coast. The government said those two sites can bring as much as 3,400 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1.2 million homes.
But later in November, New Jersey released its Energy Master Plan draft report that said, “Offshore wind in the U.S. is not economically viable at this time.”
“While offshore wind may become a valuable energy resource, generating enough energy through offshore wind carries significant drawbacks,” the draft report says.
Environmental groups and industry experts have said many offshore wind projects might not be built without subsidies to offset construction and infrastructure costs.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Thursday held a New Jersey Task Force meeting in Trenton to discuss the federal offshore auctions and the next steps.
In a statement, the New Jersey Sierra Club said leasing of those federal projects is important but they need financing rules established in New Jersey for them to happen and for the power to reach New Jersey customers.
“It is good that the federal government has given leases for offshore wind, but we are still concerned that without any rules in place, it’s meaningless for New Jersey,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said in a statement. “Offshore wind companies may end up building off our coast, and they could send electricity to Long Island or Maryland. We could end up getting offshore wind but not getting the benefits.”
DONG Energy reiterated on Thursday that it has taken over RES Americas Development Inc.’s 1,000 megawatt development project rights, according to a statement from the company.
The area was first acquired by RES Americas during the offshore wind auction Nov. 9.
The development in offshore energy has been slow in the United States, with the nation’s first and only project less than a year into construction. Work started In July on the 30-megawatt, 5-turbine Deepwater Wind in state waters off Rhode Island.
The plant will provide electricity to Block Island, which is 13 miles off Rhode Island’s coast and is powered predominantly with diesel generators.
At Fishermen’s Energy, Gallagher feels New Jersey may have missed the boat to be at the forefront of wind power in the United States.
“I think the state was really well positioned in 2010 to be a first adopter in the industry, and it would’ve gotten jobs,” Gallagher said.
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