Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island

Offshore wind turbines like the ones in the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island may soon grace the water off Atlantic City. The state is moving forward with plans to solicit 3,500 megawatts of electricity by 2022.

TRENTON — The state Board of Public Utilities voted unanimously Monday to open the bid process Thursday for the nation’s largest solicitation of offshore wind energy.

Companies will compete for ratepayer subsidy of construction costs and 20 years of operation costs for 1,100 megawatts of electric generation capacity, according to the BPU.

The window to apply will close Dec. 28, and a decision on which projects will qualify for ratepayer subsidy will be made by July 1, 2019.

That should give companies enough time to qualify for federal tax credits, due to expire at the end of 2019, said board President Joseph L. Fiordaliso. The tax credits will save ratepayers about 12 percent of the construction costs, he said.

It’s the first step in meeting the state’s goal of 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030, Fiordaliso said, and of reaching 100 percent green energy for the state by 2050.

Last week Gov. Phil Murphy called on the board to open two additional 1,200-megawatt solicitations of offshore wind capacity — one in 2020 and another in 2022.

“In the span of just nine months, New Jersey has vaulted to the front of the pack in establishing this cutting-edge industry,” said Murphy in a written statement. “We campaigned on rebuilding New Jersey’s reputation as a clean energy leader and that involves setting an aggressive timetable on offshore wind.”

“In the span of just nine months, New Jersey has vaulted to the front of the pack in establishing this cutting-edge industry,” said Murphy in a written statement. “We campaigned on rebuilding New Jersey’s reputation as a clean energy leader and that involves setting an aggressive timetable on offshore wind.”

Fiordaliso said the solicitation asks companies to estimate a net economic benefit of their projects, compared to the costs to ratepayers. The BPU will provide a guidance document to help developers calculate net economic benefits.

The bid — or bids — with the best mix of cost and economic benefit will be chosen for ratepayer subsidy of construction and operating costs, he said. All income from sale of electricity will be returned to ratepayers.

“We want to get this right,” he said. “We want to be prudent.”

Consultants hired by the BPU will help the staff and board determine whether companies’ estimates are correct, Fiordaliso said.

Companies may apply to provide anywhere from 300 megawatts to the full 1,100 megawatts he said. But each company must also provide data on what it would cost for it to provide 400 megawatts, so all companies can be compared on that measure.

Fiordaliso said the solar energy industry employs about 7,000 people directly, and far more indirectly, in New Jersey. He expects the offshore wind industry to employ many more.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if, down the road, to see wind turbine manufacturers relocating or having satellite facilities in New Jersey,” Fiordaliso said, especially as states up and down the East Coast are also moving to build wind farms.

Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost Facebook.com/EnvironmentSouthJersey

The vote came the same day Exelon Generation shut down the 500-year-old Oyster Creek Generating Station, a nuclear power plant in the Forked River section of Lacey Township.

New Jersey legislators passed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act in 2010, setting up the legal basis for ratepayer subsidy of offshore wind development. But Gov. Chris Christie never implemented it.

The board proposed a rule at its July meeting that would enact an Offshore Wind Energy Certificate funding mechanism to establish how an offshore wind project is funded and how revenues earned from the project would flow back to ratepayers.

The OREC rule proposal was published in the New Jersey Register on Aug. 20, and public comment will be accepted until Oct. 19.

Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost Facebook.com/EnvironmentSouthJersey

Staff Writer

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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