Offshore Wind Farming Gets a Giant Google Boost

By Jennifer Welsh | October 12, 2010 11:59 am

Atlantic-windA huge offshore wind energy project took a leap forward today with the announcement that Google and the investment firm Good Energies are backing the mammoth underwater transmission lines that would carry clean electricity up and down the East Coast. The $5 billion dollar project would allow for wind farms to spring up all along the mid-Atlantic continental shelf.

Google and Good Energies will both be 37.5 percent equity partners in the clean energy infrastructure project; the Japanese industrial, energy, and investment firm Marubeni will take a 15 percent share. The project, proposed by a Maryland-based company called Trans-Elect, would set up a 350-mile long energy-carrying backbone from Virginia to northern New Jersey, first allowing the transfer of the south’s cheap electricity to the northern states, and later providing critical infrastructure for future offshore wind projects.

The AWC backbone is critical to more rapidly scaling up offshore wind because without it, offshore wind developers would be forced to build individual radial transmission lines from each offshore wind project to the shore, requiring additional time consuming permitting and environmental studies and making balancing the grid more difficult. [Official Google Blog].

The transmission line is planned to have enough capacity to carry the energy of five nuclear power plants (6,000 megawatts, which could power almost 2 million homes)–energy that eventually will come from offshore wind farms. These wind farms will be situated in federal waters more than 10 miles from the shore, where the huge towers would barely be visible.

“Conceptually it looks to me to be one of the most interesting transmission projects that I’ve ever seen walk through the door,” said Jon Wellinghoff, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate electricity transmission. “It provides a gathering point for offshore wind for multiple projects up and down the coast.” [The New York Times].

Construction is scheduled to start in 2013. The first section of the project, a 150-mile stretch between southern New Jersey and Delaware, could be completed in 2016 at a cost of $1.8 billion. From there, the backbone would be expanded to two more nodes, in northern New Jersey and Virginia, and offshore wind farms can be added, to provide power from the strong and steady winds that blow over the ocean.

The complete project will not finish until at least 2021. Trans-Elect estimated the complete cost of the project to be $5 billion, plus permit and financing charges. But there are a lot of unknowns.

Industry experts called the plan promising, but warned that as a first-of-a-kind effort, it was bound to face bureaucratic delays and could run into unforeseen challenges, from technology problems to cost overruns. [The New York Times].

Google sees the project as a step towards building a “superhighway for clean energy,” enabling the East Coast to connect to the potential 60,000 megawatts of wind energy that could theoretically be harvested from Atlantic Ocean winds. Says Google:

We believe in investing in projects that make good business sense and further the development of renewable energy. We’re willing to take calculated risks on early stage ideas and projects that can have dramatic impacts while offering attractive returns. [Official Google Blog]

Related content:
80beats: Feds Green-Light the Nation’s First Offshore Wind Farm
80beats: Huge Offshore Wind Network Could Solve the Calm-Day Problem
80beats: Google’s PowerMeter Bets That Knowledge Is Less Power (Consumption)
80beats: Google and GE Team Up to Save the U.S. Power Grid
80beats: Google Invests in Energy From Hot Rocks Deep Underground

Image: Official Google blog

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • http://shineinnovations.com/ Ron Bennett

    Five billion dollars can set up several space based inflatable reflectors for beamed energy. We could use infrared lasers or radio waves. Beamed energy of choice would be radio waves that would bounce off a reflector in orbit to a receiving station back on earth. In the early 60th’s ECHO 1, a 100 foot Inflatable balloon, was the first communication satellite in space that first tested this technology.

    See “Proposal to Beam Untapped and Hard to Transport Energy to Any Location on Earth” here:

    http://shineinnovations.com/6112.html

  • Clarkson

    Ron, what’s wrong with using wind? It’s already here. I don’t have to be a scientist or engineer to see which one would be less complex and less prone to errors. Probably cheaper to send a couple dudes out in a boat, rather than into space, no?

  • Brian Too

    Cool, I’d like to hear more.

  • Jennifer Welsh

    @Clarkson, while I think you have a very valid point, putting energy pipelines and huge wind turbines 20 miles from the coast is probably going to require more than a couple dudes in a boat. But it would probably be easier to reach for repairs and expansion…

    Thanks for reading and commenting!
    Jen

  • http://giantpromotions.com Liz

    yet another reason to love Google! :) Good job, Google! Keep up the good work. Same to Good Energies.

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