A small, 25-megawatt offshore wind project off Atlantic City could start construction this winter if the state Board of Public Utilities approves an application for ratepayer subsidy made by two companies Monday.
EDF Renewables North America and Fishermen’s Energy submitted a joint petition for the Nautilus Offshore Wind project, which has all the needed permits and approvals for a site about 2.8 miles out in state waters.
Construction would start on land early in 2019, and the three- to four-turbine project could be producing electricity by the end of 2020, said EDF Regional Development Manager Doug Copeland.
Copeland declined to elaborate on the details in the petition but said the costs to ratepayers through a state subsidy program would be about the cost of a cup of coffee per household per year.
Next winter, the company would lay transmission cable down Tennessee Avenue, said Copeland. The construction of turbines at the project site would start next summer, he said.
It will not have to compete with other wind farm proposals for state subsidies from the Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Credit program being created by the BPU, Copeland said.
“The project was first conceived … in 2009,” said Copeland. “It was intended as a stand-alone that needed to meet the net benefits criteria, but not compete in the general competition with larger projects.”
The small wind farm project in state waters was supposed to train labor in building wind farms, allow the BPU to do an OREC application from start to finish and prime the supply chain to eventually serve larger projects, he said.
New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said developments in offshore wind in New Jersey have made the Fishermen’s Energy project obsolete.
“They are already revving up,” Tittel said of offshore wind developers, labor groups and supply chains.
“We have offshore wind rules going into the New Jersey Register for 1,100 megawatts. A solicitation will be out by end of the year for 1,100 megawatts. Everyone is revving up and going past this to bigger projects off the coast. That’s the future,” Tittel said.
The Fishermen’s Energy project is the only one proposed for state waters, which run to 3 miles offshore.
Orsted North America has opened an Atlantic City office and is proposing a much larger, industrial-scale wind farm about 10 miles off Atlantic City.
If the BPU determines the project would provide more benefits than costs to the state, it will approve it and the project will qualify for ratepayer subsidy, Copeland said.
EDF spokeswoman Cathy Rought said the company can’t talk in detail about the net benefits yet.
“We just filed the application, and at some point in the future we can quantify what benefits are in public way,” she said.
But in a press release, the companies said, “New Jersey will realize considerable benefits by moving forward with a small-scale project first, similar to the benefits that New England reaped from moving forward with the Block Island project years ago.”
By functioning as a learning experience for the industry and suppliers, the project will also help bring down the cost of future projects, accord-ing to the press release.
They also said the project will provide a laboratory for testing of new avian monitoring and marine mammal sensing technologies.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation in May that directed the BPU to reconsider and approve the Fishermen’s Energy project.
The project had been rejected by the BPU, which said its electricity would be too expensive.
Fishermen’s Energy Chief Operating Officer Paul Gallagher said earlier this year he had an agreement in principle to sell the company and its project to EDF Renew-able Energy, a French company with a lot of experience with offshore wind in Europe and whose U.S. headquarters is in San Diego.
Once approval is final, EDF will take over the Nautilus project completely, Copeland said.
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