Everyone is still talking about the oil industry’s big win repealing the 40-year ban on petroleum exports, and the first shipment out of Corpus Christi, Texas, on New Year’s Eve.
Meanwhile, would-be offshore wind energy producers were quietly toasting their part of the energy policy compromise that came out of Congress in December, including a five-year extension of tax credits for building wind power plants.
“It is a great help. It’s been so intermittent over the years. It will help lower our cost of financing,” said Paul Gallagher, chief operating officer of Fishermen’s Energy, Atlantic City, N.J., that wants to build a $222 million, 24-megawatt wind project off the city beaches.
After early enthusiasm during the first term of the Obama administration, East Coast offshore wind still has federal support – Fishermen’s Energy has a $47 million pledge from the Department of Energy to demonstrate the use of jacketed turbine foundations on the broad, shallow and sandy continental shelf close to mid-Atlantic population centers.
The availability of cheap natural gas to replace coal fired power plants, seemed to dim those prospects, but wind projects in Rhode Island and Maryland are moving forward. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is still pursuing his aspiration for the Republican presidential nomination, and utility regulators in his home state have yet to act on a plan for wind power.
“This is going to happen. It’s going to happen somewhere along the East Coast. If we don’t move soon, we’re going to lose that opportunity,” said James Whelan, a Democratic state senator from Atlantic City. Battered by the recession and casino closings, the region’s unemployment rate has fallen in the past year only because people have left to work elsewhere, Whelan said.
“We need to diversify our economy” and offshore wind could be one start, Whelan said. The Fishermen’s Energy project, proposed with six Siemens turbines, would support around 500 construction jobs to start and a few dozen support jobs working out of Atlantic City, he said.
But the bigger potential is in federal waters, where the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in November got $2 million from Res Americas and U.S. Wind for options on 344,000 acres of bottom between seven and 21 miles off New Jersey.