13 Feb 2011

New Jersey, Virginia moving quickly to seize offshore wind opportunity

Written by aspowell

Who is gaining the upper hand in the race to become the go-to locus of wind turbine manufacturing and assembly along the mid-Atlantic coastline?

New Jersey and Virginia are moving quickly to seize the increasingly likely economic development bonanza that the mid-Atlantic offshore wind energy market is becoming.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities on February 9 approved guidelines for special offshore wind credits and developers will be allowed to apply for the financial incentive starting this week, the Newark Star-Ledger reported.

“We need to get these programs up and running,”  Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, told the Star-Ledger. “Having a credit program in place that gives financial assurance will help make these windmills happen, because it will allow for windmill companies to borrow money. Without it, it makes it very hard to borrow the money.”

The credits were created by a state law passed last August.  For the applications, developers must provide detailed information about their projects. The credits will be earned when the offshore wind turbines produce electricity. It is still unclear if the program will require electric companies to purchase those credits.

A push to require Maryland’s investor-owned utilities to purchase these types of credits is in legislation offered by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and introduced February 11 by the Speaker of the House of Delegates and co-sponsored by 34 delegates.

“We’re not sure yet what the funding mechanism will be,” said Ken Sheehan, counsel for the New Jersey public utilities board. “That’s something we’ll do over the next 18 months.”

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell recently joined Gamesa and Northrup Grumman at the formal opening of their offshore wind technology center in Chesapeake, VA. Credit: Virginian-Pilot

Virginia is home to a new offshore wind technology center in Chesapeake, Virginia. According to a February 11 report in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot, it is a joint venture of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding and Gamesa Technology Corporation, the large wind project developer with global headquarters in Spain.

The entry of Virginia into these sweepstakes demonstrates how a state, despite its refusal to adopt a renewable electricity requirement, knows a ‘green’ opportunity when it can envision one.

“It really is a tremendous vision,” said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the Virginian-Pilot reported.  “This’ll be the first prototype built in the United States for an offshore wind platform. It holds tremendous potential for jobs and for economic development here in the future.”

The 25,000-square-foot facility employs 50 engineers and will develop two prototypes for wind turbines, according to the report. The joint venture is planning to install prototypes by the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

These moves come as U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu outlined steps to support offshore wind energy projects. Chu spotlighted three solicitations worth $50.5 million. One is for technology development; the second is for removing market barriers and the third is for “next-generation” drive trains.

Salazar identified Outer Continental Shelf areas offshore New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware as the focal points for the Department’s ‘Smart from the Start’ to speed offshore wind permitting and development.

Click here to see the Department of Interior’s map showing the offshore nautical miles targeted for development; Delaware has 122 square nautical miles, Maryland 207, New Jersey 417, and Virginia, 165.

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