Developer appeals N.J. rejection of Atlantic City project

Source: Colin Sullivan, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2014

The developer of a proposed 25-megawatt wind farm off the coast of New Jersey yesterday appealed a state agency’s decision to reject the project.
Cape May, N.J.-based Fishermen’s Energy asked the state’s Board of Public Utilities to revisit what would be the first wind project built in state waters, about 3 miles from Atlantic City.The company in a statement to the board called its decision last month “palpably incorrect” because the agency used a per-unit electricity cost that may have been wrong.The board rejected the $188 million blueprint on the grounds that funding is not guaranteed, and it would cost $263 per megawatt-hour once completed. But Fishermen’s shot back that the real price would be closer to $199 per MWh and that the company is still in the running for a $47 million “phase 2” grant from the U.S. Energy Department in any event.

CEO Chris Wissemann added that the state had no sound reason to reject a project that qualifies for the renewable energy goals set forth by the state under several laws.

“This motion is another step on the path toward an eventual approval of the project consistent with creating jobs and capturing other benefits under the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, as anticipated by the Legislature” when it passed the act in 2010, he said.

When that bill was passed, Gov. Chris Christie (R) eagerly signed it and at the time said he was behind offshore wind energy development. Environmental groups in the state view the board’s subsequent rejection as Christie reversing himself to prepare for a White House run in 2016.

When they voted against it last month, board members expressed concern that the state would be left with the tab if federal grants and other subsidies didn’t materialize. Staff documents also take issue with how the wind project would be compensated through the state’s offshore wind renewable energy certificate program, or OREC.

Another factor may be Fishermen’s affiliation with XEMC, a Chinese turbine manufacturer that owns a 70 percent stake in the 25 MW project. A spokesman for Fishermen’s said XEMC is limited to this one project and does not own a stake in the company, which was founded by commercial fishermen who hail from the Garden State.

Asked if politics could be in play with respect to the China connection, Fishermen’s spokeswoman Rhonda Jackson refused to speculate.

“I try to stay away from political perspectives,” she said in an email exchange.