The New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee on Monday pushed forward legislation that would force the Board of Public Utilities to approve the first wind farm off the state’s coast, even though the project has been blocked twice.
The committee approved two measures, one of which would compel the BPU to approve 25-megawatt demonstration project proposed by the Fishermen’s Energy LLC. Sponsored by committee chairman Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, and state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic City, S2711 would also remove requirements from the New Jersey Offshore Wind Economic Development Act that a cost-benefit analysis must be submitted with the pilot project and that the BPU must use the analysis in its approval.
The project has hit administrative roadblocks, stalling its progress, since Fishermen’s first filed its application in 2011. The matter is back before the New Jersey Appellate Division after the state Board of Public Utilities on Nov. 21 again denied the plans. The regulator previously shot down the application in March, which Fishermen’s appealed, but the court returned the case to the agency in August to consider a $47 million grant commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The second measure, SR112, sponsored by Smith and Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, would push the BPU to implement the OWEDA and another law, the Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act. The law directed the agency to develop an offshore wind renewable energy certificate program that would mandate a percentage of electricity sold in the state to be from wind energy.
The senators noted during the hearing that although the OWEDA was passed in 2010, little progress has been made on the wind farm project.
The offshore wind renewable energy certificates will help finance the project and ultimately be passed on to ratepayers.
S2711 was approved by the committee, 4-1, and SR112 by a 5-0 vote. Both measures now head to the state Senate floor.
The BPU has refused to budge from its view that the project wouldn’t provide a net economic and environmental benefit to New Jersey ratepayers, as the OWEDA requires. The regulator has also found that Fishermen’s hasn’t demonstrated financial integrity.
“We’ve been trying for a lot of years to get offshore wind going in this state,” Smith said. “Seven, eight years later we have nothing.”