The renewable energy industry knows all too well that one of the greatest hurdles to its growth is the nation’s outdated transmission system. While the government hasn’t jumped on the issue as quickly as the industry would like, major companies such as Google are taking steps to expand lines and transport electricity.
The mid-Atlantic regions holds 20% of the U.S. population, but the region has limited access to land-based renewable-energy resources. Reuters recently reported that Google and its partners (Good Energies, a private firm, and Japan’s Marubeni Corp.) have cleared the first major hurdle with U.S. regulators to build a $5 billion transmission line that would transport electricity from wind farms off the Atlantic coast. According to the article, the companies backing the project can earn a 12.59% return on their equity investment in the proposed power line, as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled.
The project consists of two parallel transmission lines stretching from northern New Jersey to southern Virginia, and could transport up to 6,000 MW of electricity that would provide power to 1.9 million households. Electricity carried by the 250-mi lines would connect with the main electric grid at onshore sites in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
The project still needs the Interior Department’s approval, as well as permission from several state agencies and the regional power grid operator, PJM. The companies hope to have the first phase of the transmission line operating in 2016.
Reuter’s reports that project sponsors commented in a filing with FERC, “Without a strong transmission backbone, offshore wind developers would need to build one or more individual radial transmission lines from each offshore wind project to the shore.
There are no major offshore wind farms operating in the United States at the moment, though more than a dozen have been proposed. One of the earliest projects expected to come online is Cape Wind off Massachusetts that will consist of 130 wind towers providing electricity to about 400,000 homes by 2013.
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