Google is to invest in a gigantic, $5 billion ‘backbone’ transmission project, which could connect up 6GW of offshore wind to the eastern US grid.
If built, the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone will stretch from New Jersey to Virginia, connecting up offshore windfarms virtually out-of-sight of the shore. The first segment of the project, will cost around $1.3 billion to build, according to independent transmission company Trans-Elect, which is leading the development.
The search engine and Switzerland-based renewables developer Good Energies will each take a 37.5% equity stake in the project, with Japanese trading firm Marubeni Corporation taking a further, unspecified stake. The project sponsors did not disclose how much they invested in the backbone.
Without such a transmission backbone, offshore wind developers would have to lay their own radial transmission lines connecting individual farms with the grid. So far, the US has been slow in developing offshore wind, with no projects yet up and running. This month saw the first lease signed for an offshore project, the controversial Cape Wind farm, which will have a capacity of 468MW.
Writing on Google’s official blog, the search engine’s green business operations director, Rick Needham, said: “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.”
“AWC will help bring stability and security to the eastern power grid while enabling the states to meet their renewable energy goals and standards by accessing an untapped large scale local renewable resource – offshore wind,” said Good Energies’ managing director John Breckenridge.
Detailed plans for the AWC backbone will be filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission later this year, Trans-Elect said. Planning and regulation hurdles will need to be overcome before the project is built, the firm said.
By. Jess McCabe