In the past week, as the Cape Wind project planned for offshore Massachusetts saw crucial legal victories, New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities (BPU) on Wednesday rejected a  $188 million offshore wind farm that was planned along the Atlantic City coast. 

Federal Court Upholds DOI Approval of Cape Wind

Issuing rulings in four lawsuits challenging Cape Wind’s permitting approval by the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton on March 14 dismissed requests to vacate the DOI’s award of the nation’s first offshore wind lease to Cape Wind.

The federal judge also rejected legal claims raised over navigational safety, alternative locations, alternative technologies, historic preservation, Native American artifacts, sea turtles, and the adequacy of the project’s environmental impact statement and biological opinions. Judge Walton, however, asked the DOI to clarify its findings on whales and birds.

“The order indicates that the case is administratively closed until the Court is provided with the clarifications,” said Cape Wind in a statement.  “Cape Wind expects these two compliance actions to be minor agency administrative actions that will not impact Cape Wind’s financing schedule.”

Citizen groups, including the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the Town of Barnstable, the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe, and the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, filed the legal challenges in 2010.

Development of the 130-turbine farm proposed for Nantucket Sound, south of Cape Cod, Mass., has spanned more than 10 years. It has required permitting review by 17 federal and state agencies and produced an administrative record of more than 400,000 pages, said Cape Wind.

In December, developers signed a major contract with Siemens for the supply of 3.6-MW offshore wind turbines, an offshore electric service platform, and a service agreement for the first 15 years of commercial operations. Cape Wind developers say they have sold 77.5% of the project’s power output in long-term power purchase agreements to National Grid and NSTAR, but it is still in the financing phase.

New Jersey BPU Spurns 25-MW Atlantic City Offshore Pilot

The BPU’s decision stems from a recommendation by its staff that the five-turbine 25-MW project—first proposed in 2011 by Fishermen’s Energy, a coalition of consultants and investors—be disapproved for a number of reasons. Among them are claims that the petition had many omissions and uncertainties, and doubts from staff that the project could proceed as proposed without federal funding. BPU staff also said it believes the risks are “too great for the ratepayers to proceed with the project.”

Fishermen’s Energy disputes the legality of the BPU’s rejection of the project, citing New Jersey’s Offshore Wind Economic Development Act that was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2010. “The Department of Environmental Protection, the Army Corp. of Engineering, and BPU consultants, including the Division of Rate Counsel, support the project,” the coalition claims.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)