In a filing released Tuesday, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) reveals that it recently rejected Fishermen's Energy's settlement agreement with the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel because, among other factors, the developer continually changed turbine suppliers.
The BPU's decision represented a major setback for the developer, which is planning to use New Jersey's offshore renewable energy certificates to support the financing and construction of the Fishermen's Atlantic Wind Farm (FACW), a 25 MW pilot project located off the coast of Atlantic City.
According to the BPU filing, the developer's initial June 2011 project application materially changed after Fisherman's notified the agency it was switching turbine suppliers several times. Originally, the BPU says the developer was considering three possible turbine manufacturers: Siemens, GE and China-based XEMC New Energy.
On June 16, 2011, Fishermen's informed the BPU that Siemens would be the turbine of record for the board's review. At that time, the board considered the Fishermen's application ‘administratively complete.’ The completeness of its application was subject to the condition that the review of the project would only consider the Siemens turbine.
The BPU notes that staff informed Fishermen's that the use of a more technologically advanced turbine equal to, or better than, the Siemens turbine could be submitted for consideration.
On June 24, 2011, Fishermen's entered into an agreement with XEMC New Energy for a majority share of the project. Then, on July 12, 2011, Fishermen's designated XEMC as the official turbine of record. At the time, Fishermen's noted that the XEMC turbines were ‘the most technically advanced and are better for FACW and New Jersey than the other currently available turbines.’
However, in an amended application on June 2012, Fishermen's requested the BPU review both XEMC and Siemens turbines.
According to the BPU ruling, ‘Staff informed FACW that promoting two different turbine manufacturers was essentially equivalent to asking the board to review two different turbine applications.’
At that point, BPU staff insisted that the developer select one provider. In September 2012, the developer instructed the BPU to review its application using XEMC technology, with the caveat that it may need to change turbine suppliers again.
‘The type of turbine a developer intends to use is fundamental to the application process,’ explains the BPU, adding that turbines are the largest cost component of the project. ‘Any substitution of the turbine could have a material impact on the project costs and performance and require careful review by the board.’
Ultimately, the BPU ruled that ‘the repeated back-and-forth concerning turbine manufacturer fails to instill confidence in the viability of this project.’