Rejected Offshore-Wind Developer Will See BPU in State Appellate Court

Fishermen's Energy follows up vow to fight if state agency refuses to reconsider its rejection of pilot wind farm

Offshore Wind Farm
Rebuffed once again by the New Jersey Board of Utilities, the developer of a small pilot offshore wind farm project said yesterday it plans to challenge the decision in the state’s appellate court.

In a meeting on Wednesday, the BPU refused to reconsider its decision rejecting the 25-megawatt offshore wind farm, which would be located about three miles from Atlantic City.

The $188 million Fishermen’s Energy Atlantic City Wind Farm is the first offshore facility to seek approval from the BPU, but it failed to get the go-ahead from the agency in a vote last month. At the time, commissioners said the project would be too pricey for electric ratepayers, who would pay much of the cost. They also questioned the financial viability of the project.

The rejection of the pilot highlights the difficulty in achieving a goal embraced by both the Legislature and the Christie administration: building a robust offshore wind industry in the state, a step both view as creating thousands of well-paying jobs in a new green manufacturing sector.

It has yet to happen.

Those efforts have been hampered by delays on the part of the federal and the state government. The U.S. Interior Department has been slow to expedite the permitting process for offshore wind farms and has yet to offer leases off the Jersey coast to developers.

For its part, the BPU has yet to adopt a financial mechanism that funnels ratepayers’ money to offshore wind developers to make their projects financially viable, even though a law directing them to do so was passed nearly three years ago.

The BPU determined that the Fishermen’s project would be too expensive for ratepayers, questioning whether millions of dollars in federal grants would ever be received.

In commenting on the agency’s refusal to reconsider its decision, Fishermen’s Energy executives said the no vote is the last step leading to its formal legal appeal.

“We are grateful New Jersey has an independent judiciary and look forward to having the merits of our application finally heard by the appellate division,’’ said Paul Gallagher, Fishermen’s chief operating officer and general counsel.

“We expect to be vindicated by the courts and to build the first offshore wind farm off of New Jersey, one that still could be the first in the United States,’’ Gallagher said.

The state’s Energy Master Plan calls for 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind capacity to be built by 2020, a goal most industry observers view as very unlikely to be achieved.

No offshore wind projects have yet to be developed in the U.S., although the industry is well established in Europe, primarily based on more lucrative government subsidies to encourage development.