A 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 Obama administration reaffirmed its commitment to clean energy sources today by giving the green light to the controversial Cape Wind project, clearing the way for 130 wind turbines to be built off the coast of Cape Cod. The wind farm will be built in Nantucket Sound, and aims to harness the steady breezes blowing along the East coast to produce clean, albeit expensive energy.
The project had been delayed for almost a year due to opposition from local Native American tribes. Two Wampanoag tribes said the turbines, which will stand more than 400 feet above the ocean surface, would disturb spiritual sun greetings and possibly ancestral artifacts and burial grounds on the seabed, which was once exposed land before the sea level rose thousands of years ago [Boston Globe]. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who approved the project, assured the tribes that he had ordered modifications to lessen the turbines’ impact. He also said that the approval would require Cape Wind to conduct additional marine archaeological surveys and take other steps to reduce the project’s visual impact [Boston Globe]. If not held back by any other legal hurdles, construction could begin later this year.