Fishermen's, DOE sign funding deal

Developer Fishermen’s Energy signed an agreement with the US Energy Department (DOE) that will allow disbursement of up to $46.7m in grant funding to help deploy a 25MW pilot wind project in state waters off Atlantic City, New Jersey.

This second round of funding over four years is subject to annual DOE reviews to assess Fishermen’s progress toward meeting certain project milestones.  

The developer will use the money for follow-on design, fabrication and deployment in order to achieve commercial operation by yearend 2016.

Fishermen’s will demonstrate the use of a twisted jacket foundation that is easier to manufacture and install than traditional foundations, helping drive down the cost of energy produced by the offshore wind system.

The project will also act as an “at-sea laboratory” to investigate the interactions between turbines, test new control systems, and provide information about potential environmental impacts of offshore wind, according to DOE.

“The support provided by Congress, specifically the NJ delegation, and the Department of Energy is critical to bringing offshore wind to the United States,” says Fishermen’s chief executive Chris Wissemann..

“Our goal here in Atlantic City is to build a commercially operational wind farm that demonstrates job creation and specifically to show that these types of projects create benefits that far exceed their costs,” he adds.

Among the DOE requirements for full grant disbursement is that the developer have an off-take agreement in place for the project’s  nameplate output one year from now.

That will present a challenge as New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities (BPU) in March denied ratepayer subsidy support for the project saying, among other things, that it did not provide a “net economic benefit” for the state.

In its decision, the regulatory body also ruled the project is too expensive and created an unacceptable level of risk for ratepayers if DOE did not provide additional funding.  

BPU in April rejected Fishermen’s motion to reconsider its decision, prompting the developer in May to file a legal appeal against the state in the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.

The ruling deprived Fishermen’s of the opportunity to help finance the project using proposed state Offshore Renewable Energy Certificates. It is the first developer to apply for the program with the BPU.

“After being awarded the DOE grant, thus addressing the BPU’s concern about Fishermen’s Energy not receiving the federal funding for the project, the team is confident of a positive outcome from the appeal process,” Fishermen's communications director Rhonda Jackson told Recharge in June.

The project otherwise has all federal and state permits to proceed.