N.J. appellate court orders state regulators to reconsider rejected offshore wind farm project

Source: By Alexi Friedman, Newark Star-Ledger  • Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014


A state appellate court has ordered the Board of Public Utilities to review its decision to reject a proposed wind farm off the Atlantic City coast, which if built would be the nation’s first offshore, grid-connected project. Above, turbines at Britain’s largest offshore wind farm. (Getty Images)

A New Jersey appellate court has ordered the state Board of Public Utilities to take another look at an application seeking to build a $188 million demonstration wind farm off the Atlantic City coast, a proposal the BPU rejected in March.

The coalition of developers that is proposing the wind farm, called Fishermen’s Energy, filed the appeal. The group had asked that the BPU reconsider its decision after the U.S. Department of Energy in May awarded $47 million toward the project’s construction, calling it “pioneering.”

Among the reasons the BPU gave in denying the proposal was that it leaned too heavily on unsecured federal grants. One of those grants was the DOE award announced two months later.

The Aug. 8 appellate court order grants Fishermen’s motion “to supplement the administrative record on appeal.” It denied a motion for oral arguments.

In a news release Monday touting the court order as “a big win,” Fishermen’s Energy said the appellate decision “requires that the BPU reconsider the application” in light of the federal grant.

The BPU will have 120 days to complete its review. The issue is now on the board’s revised agenda for Wednesday morning’s public meeting in Trenton.

BPU commissioners have said the “Offshore Renewable Energy Certificates” (ORECs) — which are required to recoup the millions of dollars investors would spend on the wind farm — may be costlier than projected. That would leave ratepayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, the BPU contends.

Fishermen’s Energy maintains its proposed OREC price would remain intact. The five-turbine wind farm, to be located in state waters 2.8 miles off the coast, would be the first grid-connected, offshore wind farm in the United States. It would produce enough energy to power 10,000 homes.

BPU commissioners have said they support offshore wind energy, but maintain the current plan is not financially viable.

The project has received support from state Democratic political leaders and environmental groups, who have accused Gov. Chris Christie of failing to lead on offshore wind, four years after he signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act.

The governor’s office has stayed relatively quiet on the issue, saying only that, “according to the BPU, the best interests of the public and ratepayers were not met.”