Exchange Renewable Energy

Six wind turbines, like this one in Iowa, were planned for about three miles off Atlantic City and could have generated enough electricity to power 15,000 homes. Fishermen’s Energy CEO Chris Wissemann said the company hopes a last-ditch effort to secure a power deal will succeed. But if it doesn’t, he says the company will wait until New Jersey officials adopt friendlier policies toward wind-energy development.

Tiffany Rushing / The Courier via AP

A bill to restart the Fishermen’s Energy offshore wind farm project off Atlantic City passed both houses of the state Legislature on Thursday and now goes to the governor.

Meanwhile, Fishermen’s Energy has an agreement in principle to sell the company and its project to EDF Renewable Energy, a French company with lots of experience with offshore wind in Europe and whose U.S. headquarters is in San Diego, Chief Operating Officer Paul Gallagher said.

“It’s exciting to bring to this project (a company) that’s built over 400 megawatts of offshore wind in Europe,” Gallagher said after the votes. “It has the knowledge and financial integrity to complete the project efficiently.”

Identical bills passed 31-4 in the state Senate and 57-12 in the Assembly, Gallagher said. Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to sign them into law.

The new law would require the Board of Public Utilities to consider an amended application for the Fishermen’s Energy project, which it twice rejected in the past, citing the high cost of its energy to the ratepayer.

Gallagher said final numbers are not settled yet on the purchase price.

“Certainly, we don’t want to have any creditors unhappy. The investors aren’t going to get rich, but hopefully everyone will be happy with the product we delivered,” he said. “Had we built it as planned in 2013, we would have been a phenomenally successful company.”

Fishermen’s Energy proposed a 24-megawatt, six-turbine demonstration project three miles off the coast of Atlantic City.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the company a $47 million grant, with the requirement it secure a power purchaser before the end of 2016.

The company failed to finalize an agreement in time, and the grant was rescinded.

The Legislature twice passed similar bills, Gallagher said, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed them.

But a new governor has meant a new emphasis on wind energy.

Murphy, a Democrat, signed an executive order in January to implement the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act of 2010, which languished under Christie.

The law creates ratepayer-financing of wind field development through an Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Credit program.

The order committed the state to quickly generate 1,100 megawatts annually of offshore wind energy and 3,500 megawatts of generation by the year 2030 — enough to power 1.5 million homes, according to Murphy.

Gallagher said Fishermen’s Energy will work with EDF through the process of getting BPU approval and OREC financing.

“Once that’s complete, they will take over,” he said.

The legislation was sponsored in the Assembly by Atlantic County Democrats Vince Mazzeo and John Armato, and by Wayne DeAngelo, D-Mercer, Middlesex.

“The Fisherman’s Energy Offshore Wind Project off the coast of Atlantic City is a ready-to-go project that can create jobs and diversify our energy portfolio,” said Mazzeo.

Armato said the project will help fulfill Murphy’s wind-energy goals.

“Offshore wind isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. We should be looking at projects big and small to green our environment and our economy,” Armato said.

The Danish firm Orsted North America, which already runs more than 20 such facilities in European waters, also is planning a large windfarm about 10 miles off Atlantic City in federal waters.

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Contact: 609-272-7219 Twitter @MichelleBPost

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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