Turbines made by Siemens and widely deployed at offshore wind farms in Europe are being considered by the company seeking to build a pilot-scale wind farm off America's New Jersey shore.
Previously, Fishermen's Energy had been inclined to opt for a new, larger and innovative machine made by Chinese turbine manufacturer, XEMC – and to accept 70% equity finance from the company. However, criticisms of XEMC's direct drive technology and suspicions about its financial resources have been expressed by consultancies hired to advise New Jersey regulators.
These may have been a factor in prompting Fishermen's Energy to look again at other manufacturers' products. Its is now giving strong consideration to purchasing a tried and tested machine – the Siemens 120m 3.6MW turbine.
According to the developer's latest application submitted to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the the Atlantic City offshore wind farm will use either six 3.6MW Siemens machines or five of the previously-proposed XEMC XD115, a 5MW turbine.
The BPU is now pressing the developer to choose one or the other, explained Fishermen’s Energy communications director, Rhonda Jackson, speaking with Windpower Offshore.
In earlier proposals, the company said it would use the XEMC machines and secure 70% equity finance from XEMC. But consultants castigated Fishermen’s, arguing that direct drive turbines have never been proven commercially. In a report for the BPU, consultancy Boston Pacific pointed out that XEMC's financial strength cannot be verified because its financial statements do not comply with American accounting standards.
Most damningly, Acadian Consulting Group, in a report for the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, said the project could result in net economic losses of almost $1bn.
In addition to questions about turbine choice, the Atlantic City project has financing hurdles to overcome, before it can make use of the construction permit it received in June and begin installation.
Uncertainty continues over how New Jersey's proposed offshore renewable energy certificates (ORECs) system will function. The ORECs system is designed to ensure that utilities pay offshore wind operators for the electricity they generate, but a BPU spokesman explained that as the regulations currently stand it is not clear whether utilities would buy ORECs directly from developers or indirectly via a third party. The BPU is examining the issue.
There are concerns that if monies are channelled through a state agency, such as the BPU, they may not be ringfenced, allowing legislators to use fees paid for ORECs to support the state budget.