BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Assembly Committee Passes Measure to Encourage Offshore Wind

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

A company called Fishermen’s Energy wants to build a wind farm off of Atlantic City.

There are five wind turbines on city property, built by the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, but nothing offshore yet.

“There are none in North America. Of course it’s a mature industry in Europe. There are 10,000 or so turbines throughout the UK, which were built in just the last three to four years,” said Fishermen’s Energy COO and General Counsel Paul Gallagher.

The Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee passed a resolution today urging the state Board of Public Utilities to stop dragging its feet on offshore wind.

“We still have a long way to go and if we’re gonna meet our clean energy goals and renewable energy standards, offshore wind needs to be part of that solution,” said Environment New Jersey Director Doug O’Malley.

Four and a half years ago, Gov. Chris Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act.

The BPU was supposed to write regulations for wind development in 2011 but has not done so yet.

Today’s resolution was aimed at lighting a fire under the BPU and got bipartisan support.

Committee Chairman Wayne DeAngelo said, “We think it’s a viable source of energy here in the state of New Jersey. It’s been about four or five years. This kind of re-institutes that threshold with the BPU, letting them know we’re still interested, we need the regulations from you guys. We see this as a great pilot program off the shore of Atlantic City creating hundreds of jobs.”

Testifying against the resolution was Americans for Prosperity, which contends that wind energy is far more expensive than traditional fossil fuels.

“There was a study released just last week out of Europe that indicated wind and solar are 16 times more expensive than natural gas. Sixteen times,” said Americans for Prosperity NJ Communications Director Mike Proto.

The BPU last year denied an application by Fishermen’s Energy to build a six-turbine pilot project three miles off Atlantic City, saying the project failed a cost-benefit analysis.

Fishermen’s Energy, based in Cape May, is appealing that ruling in court.

The BPU wouldn’t comment on today’s legislative action because the issue is in litigation.

Fishermen’s Energy is getting impatient.

“It’s time for the BPU to write the regulations that they were mandated to draft in 2010. It’s time to get this industry moving,” Gallagher said.

“We have a tremendous amount of offshore wind potential off of Atlantic City. And Gov. Christie is breaking his own law by not implementing the bill he signed more than four years ago,” O’Malley said.

New Jersey has some ambitious goals when it comes to renewable energy. But with natural gas now abundant and cheap, fossil fuels continue to carry the day.