UPPER TOWNSHIP — With the coal-fired units of the BL England power plant expected to shut down this spring and no end in sight to a legal fight over bringing natural gas to the plant, Mayor Richard Palombo told residents there is reason to be hopeful at Monday’s Township Committee meeting.
But he provided few details.
Palombo said the township has met with plant representatives and with a wind-power company, with more meetings on the way.
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“I’ll just say that there are some optimistic things and some opportunities that are out there,” Palombo said. “We just hope that our continued talks will be fruitful and we can continue to move forward. That’s all I have to say about that.”
Officials with Orsted, a Denmark-based power company with plans to create an offshore wind farm on the New Jersey coast, confirmed an Oct. 19 meeting with Palombo.
“This meeting was one of many that are underway to brief shore-town mayors in Atlantic and Cape May counties about Ocean Wind, our proposed offshore wind farm 10 miles off the coast of Atlantic City,” said Elisabeth Treseder, a senior policy adviser for Orsted, in an emailed response to questions.
In previous interviews, Palombo said there is a possibility the plant could be used as a transmission center if the power generating units are shut down.
Further information was unavailable about how the wind farm plans could tie in to the BL England site.
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No one from RC Cape May Holdings LLC, which owns the plant, or from parent company Rockland Capital Investments has responded to requests for comment.
“Ocean Wind is still in early stages of development and therefore has not made any determinations about interconnection. The project will submit an application into the (New Jersey Board of Public Utilities) by the deadline of Dec. 28,” Treseder said. “Once the NJBPU decides which company or companies will receive bids to proceed with their offshore wind plans, interconnection plans will be developed.”
The BL England power plant was set to shut more than a year ago, but the operator of the region’s power grid asked the closing to be delayed to allow time to upgrade transmission lines, to prevent issues with power reliability.
A spokesman for PJM Interconnection, which operates the power grid, has said those improvements are expected to be completed by May 2019, after which the plant could be decommissioned.
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Plant owners had hoped to transfer the coal-fired plant — the last of its kind in operation in New Jersey — to natural gas. Proponents said that would burn cleaner and mean better air quality for the area, but a lawsuit filed by environmental advocates has blocked a proposed natural gas pipeline route to the plant through the protected Pinelands, stalling the project.
Local officials have said without the pipeline, the plant would close.
Soon after taking office, Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order aimed at jump-starting offshore wind power, saying little progress had been made on the long-discussed option. Some reports say a wind farm could be producing power off Atlantic City by 2020.