Councilman wants Atlantic City to get moving on wind energy

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A new municipal authority could be coming to the resort by way of a new “green” pasture

City Councilman Bruce Ward wants to the city to establish an Alternative Energy Authority to further a new onshore wind farm initiative.

The city already is home to a wind farm owned by Jersey-Atlantic Wind LLC that can produce 8.5 megawatts of electricity per year. The ACUA uses what it needs to run its wastewater treatment plant, and the rest is sold to PJM Interconnection, the company that operates the region’s power grid.

Ward said he wants to see the city capitalize on clean energy in a similar way.

“There is an opportunity to both lower the expense of our electric use and, at the same time, promote alternative energy for not only the city but the state,” he said.

Ward’s plans are still in the early stages, but he plans to ramp up discussions and establish more specifics in the coming months.

“Initially, the onshore potential is there,” he said.

Ward points to two potential locations for the new turbines, including Duck Island along the Atlantic City Expressway and vacant land behind the city’s Public Works building and Atlantic City High School. Ward said the isolated locations would avoid affecting residential communities.

Bids to develop the wind turbines would be solicited by the new authority, and any contract would require City Council approval. The new city agency then would sell the generated energy to the private energy market, Ward said. Portions of the proceeds would cover operational expenses and the excess revenue would go to the city through the new authority.

But forming the authority won’t be easy. Council must first pass a resolution in support of an authority, which would lead to a public referendum for a citywide vote. Ward originally hoped to get the vote on next week’s ballot, but he now anticipates a vote next year in either June or November.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities would have to consider the formation if voters approve the authority.

Ward said he has support from various partners, including state agencies such as the Board of Public Utilities, the Atlantic County Utilities Authority and companies such as Atlantic City Electric.

But Atlantic City Electric spokeswoman Sandra May said there has been no commitment from the utility company. She added that the councilman did meet with Atlantic City Electric representatives and they are aware of his concept.

ACUA President Richard Dovey said the plan also was presented to him. Dovey spoke cautiously of the plan, but did endorse Ward’s targeted locations for new turbines.

First, Dovey said, a study must be done on the proposed sites, which likely would be incorporated in a citywide analysis to determine the locations’ wind strength and their proximity to an electrical sub-station.

Ward said Board of Public Utilities Director Frederick Butler has expressed enthusiasm for the plan, but Janeen Lawlor, a spokeswoman for the BPU, said no “official discussions” have been held.

Ward wrote in an e-mail Wednesday: “Among the BPU’s goals is an effort to educate (New Jersey) citizens about energy alternatives and the fact that (Atlantic City) welcomes 37 million visitors annually did not go unnoticed.”

Ward’s proposal is accompanied by several other alternative energy plans throughout the state, including other wind farm proposals in and around Atlantic City.

Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey has proposed building eight turbines about 3 miles offshore as a pilot facility to gauge possible environmental impacts. If successful, the city would build 66 more turbines about 7 miles offshore.

The company is hoping to receive a portion of a $19 million grant incentive, $4 million of which was already awarded to Garden State Offshore Energy.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine announced earlier this month he is tripling the wind-power goal originally set in the state’s draft Energy Master Plan.

The new objective places the goal for offshore wind power at 3,000 megawatts by 2020 for the state. Originally, the goal was 1,000 megawatts, which is now the goal to be met by 2012.

Source: World of Wind
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