Google doesn’t mess around when it comes to investments. Their sponsorship in a transmission project that could cost billions of dollars stands as a major voucher for the wind industry.
One of the greatest hurdles to the renewable-energy industry’s growth is the nation’s outdated transmission system. Without a beefed-up transmission backbone, offshore wind developers would be forced to bring energy to land via radial lines, which can make balancing the region’s existing grid more difficult. While the government hasn’t jumped on the issue as quickly as the industry would like, Google and fellow sponsors Good Energies and Marubeni Corporation, are supporting the 350-mi Atlantic Wind Connection (atlanticwindconnection.com). Belgian company Elia has also recently joined the investment team, which is a good move for the project because Elia is working on the “supergrid” in Europe—basically the “European version” of the AWC. The project plans to interconnect up to 7,000 MW of offshore wind turbines, helping spur the offshore wind energy industry off the Mid-Atlantic states.
The Mid-Atlantic region offers more than 60,000 MW of offshore wind potential in the outer continental shelf. These shallow waters, which extend miles out to sea, allow for development of large, distant wind farms, mitigating visibility issues and allowing greater energy capture from stronger winds. With few other renewable energy options suited for the Atlantic Coast, the transmission project will help states meet their renewable energy goals and standards by enabling the local offshore wind industry to deploy thousands of megawatts of clean, cost-effective energy.
The AWC project reduces the need to build many lower-capacity transmission lines, and relieves grid congestion in one of two National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors. These were deemed to have significant transmission network congestion and require speedy creation of transmission capacity. In addition, a single offshore backbone with a limited number of landfall points will minimize the environmental impacts of building individual radial lines to shore.
When built, the AWC will span from New Jersey to Virginia. With this backbone in place, larger and more energy efficient wind farms can connect to offshore power hubs further out to sea. These power hubs will, in turn, connect by sub-sea cables to the strongest, highest capacity parts of the land-based transmission system. The system is also scalable so it expands to accommodate additional offshore wind energy as the industry develops. The use of High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) technology allows for easier integration and control of multiple wind farms, while avoiding the electrical losses associated with more typical High Voltage Alternating Current (HVAC) lines.
Also, wind-energy development off the Atlantic Coast could create between 133,000 and 212,000 U.S. jobs according to Oceana, an ocean-conservation group. The U.S. Department of Energy also estimates more than 43,000 permanent operations and maintenance jobs could be created if 54,000 MW of offshore wind turbines were installed by 2030.
The project is led by transmission company Trans-Elect with developer Atlantic Grid Development. AWC recently received FERC approval for rate incentives that will enhance development, financing, and construction of the project. It has already filed to acquire offshore rights-of-way with the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, which has told Congress the project is on the fast-track. Construction of the first phase is slated to begin in 2013 with a completion date of 1Q 2016. Full project completion is expected in 2021.
Filed Under: Construction, Offshore wind, Towers