Another chance for wind program

Jessica Perry//October 27, 2014

Another chance for wind program

Jessica Perry//October 27, 2014

It has been more than four years since Gov. Chris Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, a measure that was intended to spark the creation of a new green industry in New Jersey and put the state at the forefront of innovation in the sector.

But between delays and some allegations of politics being played, four years have now come and gone — and New Jersey has nothing to show for it.

At the forefront of the issue is a project for a 25-megawatt wind farm three miles off the coast of Atlantic City put forth by Cape May-based Fishermen’s Energy. Despite being ready to go, the Board of Public Utilities has on multiple occasions rejected the project’s applications to join OREC, short for the state’s offshore renewable energy credit program, on the grounds that it would impose high costs on ratepayers.

But is that what’s really at play?

Some say Christie has lost his enthusiasm for the offshore wind energy program. Others say Christie’s enthusiasm for higher office has forced him to shelve the idea in deference to a national base.

Paul Gallagher, Fishermen’s chief operating officer and general counsel, isn’t speculating on politics, but admits he doesn’t know what to think.

He just knows he’ll go before the BPU again next month seeking approval of his proposal — a $188 million project that he said would create 500 new jobs and is armed with $47 million in recently secured federal grants. That funding, and a dispute between the company and the BPU over the proposed OREC price, led a state appellate court to rule in August that the BPU needed to reconsider the project’s application, landing Fishermen’s a spot on November’s agenda.

Will it make a difference? Gallagher won’t guess.

“I’ve been living with this for four years and I can’t speculate as to what motivates the BPU,” Gallagher said.

The BPU says it can’t say. According to a BPU spokesman, neither staff nor any board commissioners can comment on the project, as it is a “pending matter.”

So what happened?