The first company to file an application to build an offshore wind farm off the coast of Atlantic City is also the earliest to win crucial environmental permits from the state.
Fishermen’s Energy yesterday said it has obtained three key permits from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to build its demonstration-scale six-turbine wind farm in state waters.
The project, to be built in two phases, is vying to be the initial wind farm developed off the New Jersey shore, where at least four developers have announced plans to try and build wind farms.
The Christie administration and legislature have adopted measures that aim to build a vibrant offshore wind industry, offering significant tax credits if manufacturing operations associated with the sector locate in ports in the state. In addition, there is a proposal, partially funded by Google, to build an offshore wind transmission backbone to bring the energy to shore.
"Fishermen’s Energy demonstration project off Atlantic City will be the catalyst needed to jumpstart the offshore industry in New Jersey and sends the right signals to manufacturers that New Jersey is open to business," said Daniel Cohen, president of Fishermen’s Energy.
The first phase of the project is designed to show the viability of offshore wind farms, with plans to develop six turbines about 2.8 miles off the coast. Later, the developer plans to build a 350-megawatt, utility-scale project about 10 miles off the coast, if approved by federal and state authorities.
"The development of an offshore wind project off New Jersey’s coasts is a priority for the Christie administration,’’ said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “The governor is committed to making the state a leader in this new industry, with its environmental and economic benefits. This is a great first step forward in making this a reality for New Jersey."
The initial phase of the project will result in over 200 construction jobs and 15-20 permanent jobs in operation and maintenance positions, according to Mike Madia, chief operating officer of Fishermen’s Energy.
The permits obtained by the developer include a Coastal Area Facility Review Act permit, a Waterfront Development permit and a Water Quality Certificate. It still needs to navigate approval from the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and apply for various permits from the federal government. Rhonda Jackson, a spokesman for Fishermen’s Energy, said the company hopes to begin construction on the first phase of the project next May or June.
The approval was welcomed by clean energy advocates. "Today’s announcement puts New Jersey one step closer to being America’s leader on offshore wind," said Matt Elliot, clean energy advocate for Environment New Jersey. "Offshore wind is a safe, reliable way to generate electricity without creating a drop of pollution."
The demonstration project is expected to be followed in approximately four years by a utility-scale project further out in coastal waters. The state is hoping to develop 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind capacity off its coastal waters initially, but the New Jersey Energy Master Plans calls for building up to 3,000 megawatts of capacity. One megawatt is equivalent to the power needed to light about 800 homes.