Plans to build a 25-megawatt wind farm off Atlantic City are now on hold after the state's Board of Public Utilities declined to approve the latest proposal.
The wind farm project, which would install six turbines 2.8 miles off the coast of Atlantic City, would be the first along the East Coast and would produce enough electricity to power 10,000 homes.
The project has all its permits and surveys, but financing has remained an issue. Recently, the developer had reached an agreement with the state's Office of Rate Counsel to reduce its project costs from $200 million to $164 million, while also offering additional savings in renewable energy credits totaling $50 million, according to New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel.
Tittel said one of the BPU's main objections was a provision that if federal grants didn't materialize and the project failed, New Jersey would pay Fishermen's Energy more than $19 million.
BPU spokesman John Reinert said some of the project's costs are still at issue, but declined to release details, saying the case is still pending.
The BPU's vote Friday was in line with a deputy Attorney General's opinion that "some aspects were not consistent with the state's Offshore Wind Economic Act," Reinert said.
The project's cost is also an issue for Atlantic City Electric, although the utility has been supportive of the project, said Lendel Jones, an ACE spokeswoman.
"Our concern is that we want to make sure the cost is spread out equally across everyone, not just those closest to the project in New Jersey," Jones said.
Fishermen's Energy LLC, of Cape May, issued a statement Friday stating they were "disappointed" with the BPU's decision and they would continue to work with the agency on a solution. They now hope to start construction by fall 2015.
"This entire matter centers on a cost to a typical residential customer that is less than a cup of coffee each year," CEO Chris Wissemann said. "There are few industries that can be attracted to New Jersey for such a low price tag, much less one that has been proven to show that benefits exceed costs."
Fishermen's Energy received $4 million in federal grants in December, and if the company spends $10 million of their own money before the end of the year, it could receive up to an additional $100 million in federal funds.
"We are troubled with how the BPU is handling the project, not the project itself," Tittel said, adding the project would bring thousands of jobs in addition to the environmental benefits of the clean-energy production.
Douglas O'Malley, interim director of the advocacy group Environment New Jersey, said it was a foolish decision on the part of BPU to halt the project.
O'Malley said the start-up cost for the construction will pay for itself in years to come.
The project's location offshore of Atlantic City is ideal compared to the rest of the shore, because it has the best wind speeds and is not in the midst of major shipping channels, O'Malley said.
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