Building on the momentum and support for developing the Mid-Atlantic region’s abundant offshore wind energy resource, the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) recently filed the first-ever unsolicited right-of-way application with the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) for the use of certain areas of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to construct an offshore-transmission lines.
“The Mid-Atlantic region’s offshore waters hold vast potential for wind energy production. AWC offers a superhighway allowing large-scale development of this important clean domestic energy resource efficiently, economically. and with the least environmental impact,” said Markian Melnyk, president of Atlantic Grid Development, AWC’s development company.
“AWC supports federal and state economic development, environmental and renewable-energy-policy objectives, including the renewable energy standards of states in the region, and it would enhance the competitive regional electric market by increasing supply options and reducing congestion on existing facilities,” said Melnyk.
The application builds on the momentum created by identifying four offshore wind energy development zones announced by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The project will be built in several phases to network those development zones and complement the progression of the Mid-Atlantic offshore wind industry while maximizing grid reliability and benefits from economic dispatch of generation.
AWC is the first offshore backbone electricity transmission system proposed in the U.S. The project configuration outlined in the application will allow transmitting up to 7,000 MW of offshore wind energy into the regional power grid operated by PJM Interconnection, increasing system reliability, and reducing congestion in the heavily congested corridor between Virginia and the metropolitan New Jersey and New York City area. This cutting-edge high-voltage direct-current subsea backbone transmission system would be constructed off the coasts of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
The project ultimately will span roughly 300 miles of federal waters from the northern New Jersey and New York City metropolitan area to Virginia. In preparing the application, nearly 9,700 square miles of the OCS were examined in a process that included extensive analysis of the offshore marine environment, seafloor conditions, conflicting uses, wrecks and obstructions, cable and other infrastructure crossings, protected species, cultural resources, geologic and geotechnical hazards, and public safety. AWC also modeled wind speeds, offshore turbine foundation costs, and wind turbine output to discover the best places to locate offshore wind farms within the offshore areas BOEM has designated for wind-energy projects. That process eliminated 75% of that area from consideration.
The corridor remaining, representing 297 OCS blocks, will be further narrowed following offshore survey activities intended to satisfy state and federal requirements, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act. Ultimately, AWC’s offshore transmission backbone system will require a narrow corridor for the cables buried in the seabed of 200 feet or less in width encompassing an estimated 24 square miles or only 1% of the OCS block area identified in the right-of-way application.
AWC’s offshore backbone transmission system will be built in the Mid-Atlantic Wind Energy Areas recently identified by BOEM, and will connect multiple offshore wind farms to the strongest portions of the existing onshore transmission grid. AWC would be operated as a federally regulated public utility with the responsibility for providing open-access transmission service. AWC is not seeking OCS areas for the purpose of wind energy generation. Wind energy projects that connect to AWC’s transmission network would be built by unaffiliated entities using OCS leases secured from BOEM in separate applications.
Upon receipt of AWC’s right-of-way application, BOEM will review it and may publish a Request for Interest (RFI) describing the project and giving interested persons an opportunity to comment on the requested right-of-way. If BOEM determines there is no competitive interest for the area applied for, then AWC would conduct field studies onshore and offshore and prepare a General Activities Plan describing the proposed facilities, existing conditions, potential environmental and other impacts, and proposed mitigation. The plan will undergo environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act, including opportunity for further public comment. The plan must be authorized by BOEM before construction can begin.
The five phases of AWC’s project, when built, will comprise about 650 miles of offshore transmission circuits constructed over about 10 years:
Phase A. An offshore portion from southern New Jersey to Delaware with up to 2,000 MW capacity
Phase B. An offshore portion from southern New Jersey to the northern New Jersey/New York metropolitan area with a capacity of up to 1,000 MW
Phase C. The offshore portion from Maryland to the northern New Jersey and New York metropolitan area with a capacity of up to 2,000 MW
Phase D. The offshore portion from Maryland to Virginia with up to 1,000 MW capacity, and
Phase E. The offshore portion from Delaware to Virginia with a capacity of up to 1,000 MW.
AWC’s schedule has manufacturing and construction of Phase A between Indian River, Del., and southern New Jersey beginning in early 2013, with completion and commencement of commercial service in 2016. Phase B of the Project could be operational in early 2017 and would interconnect additional wind farms along the coastline.
Atlantic Wind Connection
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