French Energy Company Purchases Fishermen’s Energy Wind Pilot

Aug 15, 2018

Gov. Phil Murphy’s embrace of clean energy and wind power has proven a lift for once-beleaguered Fishermen’s Energy’s plan to construct a test offshore wind farm off the Atlantic City coast; international energy giant EDF Energy Renewables has entered into a preliminary agreement to acquire Fishermen’s Energy’s 24 megawatt project.

Legislature signed by Murphy on May 30 directing the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to take another look at the proposal by Fishermen’s Energy – the only fully permitted off shore wind turbine project in New Jersey – has given the consortium of commercial fishermen a needed lifeline.

Murphy had already made it a goal of his administration to promote the development of 3,500 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by signing executive order #8 in January, directing the BPU to fully implement the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act of 2010.

On Aug. 6, EDF Renewables North America and Fishermen’s Energy submitted their joint petition for what is now called the Nautilus Offshore Wind project to the BPU. The BPU has 90 days from the signing of the bill to make a decision on issuing a “power off-take agreement,” also called an offshore renewable energy certificate, a funding mechanism for the proposed project.

EDF (Electricité de France) is a global electricity company started after World War II to rebuild the electric infrastructure in France and was partially funded by the Marshall Plan. The company built hydro-electric dams in the Alps. It has 16 nuclear power plants (including the first built in China) as well as solar and wind farms, and generates 50 GW, including 7,912 MW in 14 countries. It built the world’s first tidal power plant in 1966 and was privatized in 1990.

In an Aug. 6 joint press release by EDF Renewables North America and Fishermen’s Energy they state, “The project represents a crucial opportunity for New Jersey to gain the immediate benefit of local investment, jobs, infrastructures and an offshore experience ahead of many other states looking to capitalize on this new economy. EDF Renewables and Fishermen’s Energy will contribute to the New Jersey offshore industry and deploy capital investment to bring a first project online by 2020.

“EDF Renewables will leverage its global procurement capabilities, having supply agreements in place for more than 9 GW of onshore wind in North America throughout the past decade, precise skill and long-term relationships with suppliers to source cost of energy leading technologies.”

The companies say New Jersey will benefit from the small scale of Fishermen’s Energy pilot project – the same benefits New England received from its Block Island project, including avian monitoring (bird strikes) and marine mammal sensing technologies. EDF proposes to construct three or four state-of-the-art wind turbines.

EDF Renewables North America is headquartered in San Diego.

Fishermen’s Energy was formed as a consortium in 2005, and includes owners of Atlantic Cape Fisheries, and Cold Spring Fish and Supply Co. out of Cape May, Dock Street Seafood out of Wildwood, Eastern Shore Seafood out of Mappsville, Va., and Viking Village in Barnegat Light.

It received all necessary permits to build a five-turbine project 2.8 miles off the Atlantic City coastline but was twice turned down by the BPU on grounds the project would be too costly for ratepayers to support. Fishermen’s Energy has always denied that claim.

As a result of the BPU’s decision, the project lost $47 million in government funding from the U.S. Department of Energy by missing the January 2017 deadline for securing the power off-take agreement from the BPU. But with RDF Renewables North America’s backing and legislative action, the project is far from being dead in the water.

The revised Senate bill S988 passed the Senate (23-to-11) in February, and the concurrent bill A3093 was passed by the Assembly on March 14. The Senate bill was sponsored by Jim Whelan with the concurrent bill sponsored by Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (both of Atlantic County).

Former Gov. Chris Christie pocket-vetoed similar legislation in 2015. The revised bill eliminated language that directed the BPU to grant the required permit as well as some language in the previous Assembly bill that would have eliminated a cost-benefit analysis.

With the addition of another major player in the offshore wind energy field and the apparent political will to promote Atlantic coastline wind generation, can we expect to see windmills off the beaches of LBI? Unlikely. The New Jersey Wind Energy Area starts about 7 nautical miles offshore and extends roughly 21 nautical miles seaward. To see a map of the New Jersey Wind Energy Area, go to–Jersey.

In November 2015, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held an offshore land lease sale for the purposes of developing future wind farms. US Wind Inc. won the right to develop the Wind Energy Area of 183,353 acres off Ocean and Atlantic counties while RES America Developments Inc. won the right to develop the 160,480 Wind Energy Area acres from Atlantic City south to Cape May County. RES was almost immediately sold to Orsted, a Danish energy firm.

Each lease has five years to develop and submit a site assessment plan to BOEM for approval. A site assessment plan describes the activities (installation of meteorological towers and buoys) for the assessment of the wind resources and ocean conditions of its commercial lease area. Orsted has completed its SAP and submitted it to BOEM. It is at work on its geophysical studies for a wind farm project 10 miles off Atlantic City called “Ocean Wind.”

— Pat Johnson

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