Fishermen’s Energy hopes to finalize an agreement in four to six weeks to test and pre-commission the XEMC-Darwind XD115 5MW direct-drive wind turbine in the United States that it wants to use for a pilot offshore project.
If that occurs, testing would begin later this quarter at a facility operated in South Carolina by the Clemson University Restoration Institute. Commissioned last November, it has two testing bays for wind turbine drivetrains for up to 7.5MW and 15MW, respectively.
“It gives us the opportunity to test, commission and fine tune the turbine on land and make any adjustments that may be required before installation in the ocean,” says Paul Gallagher, chief operating officer at Fishermen’s. “We expect the testing to validate that this state-of-the-art turbine will come online quickly and perform as expected.”
A consultant’s report done in 2012 for the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) expressed concern that the turbine technology was unproven.
Last week, officials and engineers from Fishermen’s, XEMC-Darwind in the Netherlands and parent XEMC New Energy based in Xiangten, China, visited the facility in North Charleston.
The BPU in March rejected a ratepayer-funded subsidy mechanism for the project, which would be located in state waters off Atlantic City, saying it did not provide a “net economic benefit” for the state.
Fishermen’s is appealing that decision, calling on regulators to reexamine “a number of apparent misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the record.”
XEMC New Energy also potentially has a lot at stake with the testing outcome as validation of the turbine would give it a selling point in the world’s second largest wind market. The Chinese vendor is hoping to use Fishermen’s pilot project to demonstrate the turbine and has a reported 70% equity stake.
If Fishermen’s can get that project afloat, it would then try to advance a 330MW array in federal waters off New Jersey’s coast that would utilize 66 XEMC-Darwind turbines.
For the larger project, XEMC New Energy has raised the possibility of a locating a purpose-built offshore wind turbine assembly plant in southwestern New Jersey along the Delaware River. It is the only turbine vendor willing to take the investment risk on a new plant to bring manufacturing jobs to the state, according to Fishermen’s.
Meanwhile, Fishermen’s is competing with five other developers for a second round of US Energy Department funding that will enable three of them to demonstrate advanced offshore wind technology. DOE next month will award three developers $46.6m each through 2017.
The developer hopes that if chosen, the funding will help allay concern at the BPU that ratepayers would have to shoulder too much of the project’s $200m cost.