- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey energy regulators took the air out of a $188 million plan to build a wind power farm off the coast of Atlantic City on Wednesday, rejecting the plan as too financially risky.

The state Board of Public Utilities rejected a proposal by Fishermen’s Energy to build a windmill farm three miles off the state’s southern coast, deciding it placed too much potential risk of soaring electric bills for ratepayers.

The proposal’s five turbines would have generated about 25 megawatts of electricity, but depended on a mixture of subsidies and federal grants to make sure ratepayers didn’t get stuck with sky-high bills.

Environmentalists decried the move, saying the state has squandered an opportunity to provide clean energy.

“New Jersey has fumbled off-shore wind over the last three years,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “We have the potential to be a national leader, but we’re quickly falling behind neighboring states. You can’t be an off-shore wind leader if you’re not building turbines.”

Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club says the board did not consider the benefits of reduced air pollution. He also noted that the company reached an agreement last year with the state Rate Payer Advocate that would reduce project costs by about $20 million.

In Oct. 2008, then-Gov. Jon Corzine announced plans to make New Jersey a world leader in wind energy, calling for the state to triple the amount of wind power it plans to use by 2020 to 3,000 megawatts. That would be 13 percent of New Jersey’s total energy, enough to power between 800,000 to just under 1 million homes.

The state’s current energy master plan calls for it to develop 1,100 megawatts of offshore power by 2020.

In Atlantic City, the local utilities authority has a wind farm consisting of five windmills that generate 7.5 megawatts, enough energy to power approximately 2,500 homes. It powers a wastewater treatment plant, with surplus energy going to the area power grid.

Fishermen’s Energy, which launched a test buoy into the ocean in 2010 to gather data on wind conditions and environmental resources in the area, said at the time it had hoped to eventually place 66 turbines offshore, capable of powering 50,000 homes.

The company is considering an appeal.


Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC