Spotlight Profile: Chris Wissemann

The new CEO of Fishermen's Energy thinks New Jersey is ready for offshore wind

Chris Wissemann
As chief executive officer of Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey LLC, a job he took two weeks ago, he is responsible for trying to steer the state’s, and very possibly the nation’s, first offshore wind farm into operation. That task became much more formidable with the filing of a report last week by the Division of Rate Counsel recommending the project be rejected by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities because it failed to produce a net economic benefit for residents and businesses.

Title: Chief executive officer of Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey LLC, which is seeking to build an offshore wind farm about 2.8 miles off the coast of Atlantic City, a facility that would produce about 25 megawatts of generating capacity.

Age: 50

Hometown: Southold, Long Island

Why he’s a player: As the top executive of the company seeking to build the first offshore wind farm off the coast, his actions will be closely scrutinized by others. Eleven developers have expressed interest in building wind farms off the Jersey coast, but each face a steep hurdle: convincing New Jersey officials that the higher cost of electricity produced by the wind turbines, compared with conventional sources, produces net economic benefits for consumers, primarily cleaner and less polluting energy and the green jobs the industry may create for resident and businesses.

Why promote offshore wind: “I have a career in energy production, while seeing an ever increasing amount of energy use. Offshore wind has the potential of being one of the sources of energy close to the population that needs it. It’s a local resource that you can build right here to make a difference.”

His past jobs: He was a founder and managing partner in Deepwater Wind, a partner with PSEG Global in Garden State Offshore Energy, where he served as president. More recently, he led Great Lakes Wind Energy LLC.

Why he bounced around: “It looked like the Great Lakes was going to be a faster path to development of offshore wind because the federal government was not involved.” He also had a two-year noncompete clause in his contract with Garden State, one of the developers seeking to build an offshore wind farm off the coast.

Biggest hurdle facing Fishermen’s: “It’s making the benefits clear. You really have to dig into the costs and the benefits. It’s not simple stuff. We all need to work together to make sure all the facts come out.”

Can New Jersey be the first state to build an offshore wind farm: “In my opinion, it’s more advanced in terms of engineering, permitting, and procurement. What New Jersey has created with its energy master plan is what should happen on the national level. We are really an extremely extensive energy economy. We have to find a way to sustain it.”

What he says to critics who fault the subsidies given to renewable energy sources, such as wind: “There are not a lot of people who look at the big picture. Right now, energy prices are at a historic low. It’s a goal for renewables to get off subsidies. To do that, we have to have a level playing field. A lot of traditional fields got subsidies when they got started.”

Family: Married with four kids.