Google blows into offshore wind project

Oct. 15, 2010 at 11:12 AM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- Google has agreed to invest, along with other partners, in a massive offshore wind power project along the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region.

The Atlantic Wind Connection "backbone" deep-water cable transmission project, led by Trans-Elect, is expected to provide approximately 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity, enough power to serve 1.9 million households, when fully complete.

Other investors include Good Energies, a global investor in renewable energy, and Japan's Marubeni Corp.

Instead of requiring multiple connections, the transmission line will serve as a "superhighway with on-ramps for wind farms," said Rick Needham, director of green business operations at Google, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. It will link to land at four locations: North Jersey, South Jersey near Atlantic City, the coast of Delaware and the coast of Virginia south of Norfolk.

The transmission line would run about 15 to 20 miles offshore. That's up to 17 miles further out than the controversial Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, which has encountered fierce local opposition on aesthetic and environmental grounds.

AWC developers say that the turbines -- with 295-foot hubs and 197-foot blade lengths -- would barely be visible from beaches and residences, National Geographic News reports.

The system could also be expanded to accommodate additional offshore wind energy as the industry further develops.

AWC would involve high-voltage direct current instead of the high-voltage alternating current typical of most wind farms. Trans-Elect says HVDC cables are cheaper, have lower energy loss and use less copper than HVAC cables.

"The AWC backbone will both relieve transmission congestion in one of the nation's most restricted power markets as well as enable the development of a huge offshore wind capacity that can bring stability and security to the Eastern Power Grid," John Breckenridge, managing director at Good Energies, said in a news release.

Construction of the project is expected to begin in 2013, after the necessary permits are obtained and completion of an environmental review process.

"This can dramatically accelerate development of renewable energy," Needham said. "This is in line with our commitment to a clean energy future, where we believe that being good environmental stewards makes good business sense."

In May, Google made its first direct investment in clean energy, when it bought a $38.8 million stake in two North Dakota wind farms.

Pointing out that AWC is still in its early stages, Needham said "we're willing to take calculated risks on large-scale projects that can move an industry."

Google is to provide 37.5 percent of the equity for the initial development. While none of the investors would provide dollar amounts, The New York Times reported that Google's initial investment in the project would be $200 million.

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