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Google Partners to Create Mid-Atlantic Offshore Wind Farm Transmission Grid

Google is expanding into offshore wind farm transmission grid. Google is expanding its horizons by partnering with Good Energies, a New York-based investment firm that specializes in renewable energy, to create a $5 billion, 350-mile-long transmission grid to support offshore wind farms along the Atlantic Seaboard.

Each of the two firms has agreed to take 37.5 percent of the equity portion of the project – named the Atlantic Wind Connection — and are looking for additional investors.  Trans-Elect, a Maryland-based transmission-line company, hopes to begin grid construction as soon as 2013.

“Conceptually, it looks to me to be one of the most interesting transmission projects that I’ve ever seen walk through the door,” according to Jeff Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which administers interstate electricity transmission.  “It provides a gathering point for offshore wind for multiple projects up and down the coast.”  The proposed grid will have a capacity of 6,000 megawatts, the equivalent of five large nuclear power plants.  The system will be located in shallow trenches on the seabed in federal waters just 15 to 20 miles offshore and stretch from northern New Jersey to Norfolk, VA.  It will harvest power from wind turbines situated where the winds are strong and the towers will be largely out of sight.  Richard L. Needham, director of Google’s green business operations group, described the plan as “innovative and audacious.  It’s an opportunity to kick-start this industry and, long term, provide a way for the mid-Atlantic states to meet their renewable energy goals.”

Trans-Elect says that the first phase – stretching from northern New Jersey, to Rehoboth Beach, DE – could be completed by 2016, with the rest of the system becoming operational in 2021.  Using offshore wind to generate electricity is more expensive than coal, natural gas or onshore wind, though experts predict offshore turbines will be used more frequently to meet state requirements for locally generated renewable energy.  James J. Hoecker, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, described the Atlantic transmission grid as “a necessary piece of what the Eastern governors have been talking about in terms of taking advantage of offshore wind.”

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