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Fishermen’s Energy Gets ‘Third Wind’ on Offshore Wind Pilot

Murphy signs bill requiring BPU to accept application from Fishermen’s, third time project will come before state agency

offshore wind

Fishermen’s Energy is going to get another shot at convincing the state to approve its small, pilot offshore wind project about three miles from Atlantic City.

Gov. Phil Murphy yesterday signed without comment a bill (S-1217) that requires the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to accept an application from Fishermen’s and review it within 90 days.

For Fishermen’s, it will be the third time the 24-megawatt offshore-wind project will have come before the regulatory agency. The two previous times, the BPU rejected the proposal as being too expensive to ratepayers, who will pay for the electricity from the wind turbines.

A jump-start

To clean-energy advocates and legislators, however, the bill is viewed as jump starting the state’s nearly eight-year-old effort to develop offshore wind as a viable and cleaner source of electricity in the state.

“Wind energy offers the opportunity to create jobs in a growing sector of the economy at the same time we generate clean energy that helps protect the environment,’’ said Senate President Steve Sweeney, the sponsor of the bill.

For Murphy, the project, if approved, offers a chance to get an offshore wind project operating before he has to run for re-election a little more than three years from now. Murphy has established a goal of developing 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind capacity along the Jersey coast by 2030. None of the big offshore wind farms currently in development are likely to be operating until 2023 at the earliest.

Since the Fishermen’s project was last before the BPU, the company reached a preliminary agreement earlier this spring to be acquired by EDF Renewable Energy, a global developer of clean-energy projects. EDF has developed 400 megawatts of offshore wind capacity in Europe.

EDF executives are confident the Fishermen’s Energy project will get a better reception this time around. Former Gov. Chris Christie initially backed offshore wind, but soured on the technology, viewing it as too expensive to utility customers, who already pay some of the highest energy bills in the country.

“It is a great project to get something built in his first term,’’ Doug Copeland told NJ Spotlight last month during an offshore wind conference in Princeton.

Many legislators also are eager to see some movement on offshore wind.

“It’s time to get moving again to truly harness the potential we have in New Jersey for offshore wind,’’ said Sen. Bob Smith, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. “The opportunity to develop offshore wind has returned. We’re going to take advantage of this and make New Jersey the leader we should be.’’

Two developers have purchased leases to build offshore wind farms along the Jersey coast. They are Ørsted and U.S. Wind, both of which are completing feasibility studies for their projects. In addition, Deepwater Wind is planning to develop an offshore wind project in a joint venture with the Public Service Enterprise Group about 16 miles from Cape May.

The BPU is currently working on developing a funding mechanism to have ratepayers subsidize offshore wind along the coast. Without those incentives, it is unlikely offshore-wind developers will be able to line up financing from Wall Street for their projects.

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