If New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was serious about killing New Jersey’s prospects for offshore wind energy, he got what he wanted. According to a report earlier this week, the US Energy Department was forced to yank millions in funding out from under a planned six-turbine wind farm off the coast of coast of Atlantic City.
Fortunately for offshore wind fans, there are three reasons why the victory will almost certainly be a temporary one.
A Cutting Offshore Edge Wind Farm For New Jersey…
The Atlantic City project would have put New Jersey on the global wind industry map, as the site of an innovative demonstration project.
Here’s the Energy Department enthusing over Fishermen’s contribution:
Fishermen’s Energy Atlantic City Windfarm will demonstrate the use of a twisted jacket foundation that is easier to manufacture and install than traditional foundations, helping drive down the cost of energy produced by the offshore wind system.
As with the other two projects, lessons learned from the Fishermen’s was supposed to ripple out and benefit the rest of the domestic wind industry:
During operation, the Fishermen’s project will act as an at-sea laboratory to further our knowledge about offshore wind, investigate the interactions between turbines, test new control systems, and provide information about potential environmental impacts of offshore wind while reducing the levelized cost of energy from offshore wind.
Fishermen’s can also take credit for demonstrating a rotating access ladder in partnership with the company Keystone Engineering. According to the Energy Department, the new ladder will result in a significant improvement in worker safety.
Just last May, the Energy Department included Fishermen’s in another three-project grant package for advanced wind energy technology.
…So, What Happened?
The latest grant was contingent upon Fishermen’s ability to find a buyer for electricity from the project, by December 31.
Prospects looked good as recently as last October, but apparently the deal fell through.
That was just the latest blow in a long battle that Fishermen’s has weathered in New Jersey.
The state’s Governor, Chris Christie, has been accused of repeatedly tripping up the project through the Board of Public Utilities, reportedly because of his presidential ambitions and close relationship with the Koch brothers.
Governor Christie dropped out of the Republican primary early in February 2016, but apparently he was already laying the groundwork for engaging with the eventual Republican nominee. In May 2016 he vetoed state legislation that would have enabled Fishermen’s Energy to move forward.
Christie’s subsequent work on the Trump campaign and his desire to win a slot in the incoming Trump Administration could also factor into the New Jersey wind debacle (the President-elect is not a fan of renewables, to say the least).
As of this writing, though, the reasons behind the missed December deadline have not been made public.
Down, Not Out Off The Jersey Shore
So much for the bad news.
The good news is that New Jersey will be getting some offshore wind turbines relatively soon. They will be built in a federally designated area located in New York coastal waters, which also happens to be roughly equidistant from part of the New Jersey shoreline.
In fact, according to a federal simulation visitors to some New Jersey shore communities will be able to enjoy the sight of New York’s wind turbines spinning, just short of the horizon.
Also, within the next 7-8 years offshore wind turbines will likely be built in New Jersey waters. Last fall, right around the time Christie was kicking his presidential campaign into gear, the Bureau of Ocean Land Management announced that it was set to auction off leases for an offshore wind area in the vicinity of Atlantic City, to the tune of 3,400 megawatts.
Those offshore leases were awarded to two companies, US Wind Inc. and RES America Developments Inc..
All that electricity will sure come in handy as the state prepares to shutter its aging Oyster Creek nuclear power plant.
Meanwhile, Associated Press reports that Fishermen’s Energy is determined to soldier on, with or without financial support from the Energy Department.
The company’s innovative foundation could provide it with leverage for retaining viability in the offshore wind industry, so stay tuned.
Photo: Fred Olsen Renewables AB via Fishermen’s Energy.