Consumer agency gives thumbs-down to N.J. wind project

An agency that represents consumers in setting energy policy is recommending that New Jersey reject a proposed offshore wind farm.

Fishermen’s Energy wants to build New Jersey’s first offshore wind farm about three miles from the Atlantic City coast.

But the Division of Rate Counsel is urging the Board of Public Utilities not to approve the project because the costs exceed its benefits, said Stefanie Brand, division director.

“We are proponents of offshore wind, but we really want to make sure that it’s done in a way that doesn’t actually end up draining New Jersey’s resources as opposed to enhancing them,” Brand said. “Hopefully, in the future, we’ll get some better projects proposed and we’ll be able to support them.”

Fishermen’s Energy maintains the project would be a big tourist attraction and produce significant economic benefits. Company officials still hope for approval to start construction next year.

Chris Wissemann, Fishermen’s CEO, said the recommendation is not a setback for the development of offshore wind projects.

“It’s the outcome of the BPU proceeding that will really indicate whether this is a setback or not. This is just one voice,” Wissemann said. “We really think that, when the facts are out on the table, this will prove to be a responsible first step investment for New Jersey.”

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel, however, does consider the opposition daunting for the development of offshore wind projects.

“It’ll be used by the opponents of wind and renewable energy to attack it,” said Tittel Tuesday. “And what happens when we try to build 1,500 megawatts of offshore wind versus the Fishermen’s project (which) right now is only five windmills. It’s a relatively small project. “

Brand said those other projects may stand a better chance.

“When we go to the larger projects that are going to be built in federal waters, I’m really hoping that the competitive process the state has set up will bring down the cost and will make it more advantageous for ratepayers,” she said.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.