We just signed an agreement to invest in the development of a backbone transmission project off the Mid-Atlantic coast that offers a solid financial return while helping to accelerate offshore wind development—so it’s both good business and good for the environment. The new project can enable the creation of thousands of jobs, improve consumer access to clean energy sources and increase the reliability of the Mid-Atlantic region's existing power grid.
When built out, the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone will stretch 350 miles off the coast from New Jersey to Virginia and will be able to connect 6,000MW of offshore wind turbines. That’s equivalent to 60% of the wind energy that was installed in the entire country last year and enough to serve approximately 1.9 million households.
The AWC backbone will be built around offshore power hubs that will collect the power from multiple offshore wind farms and deliver it efficiently via sub-sea cables to the strongest, highest capacity parts of the land-based transmission system. This system will act as a superhighway for clean energy. By putting strong, secure transmission in place, the project removes a major barrier to scaling up offshore wind, an industry that despite its potential, only had itsfirst federal lease signed last week and still has no operating projects in the U.S.
Why offshore wind and why the Mid-Atlantic? Many coastal areas in the United States have large population centers on an overstretched grid but limited access to a high-quality land-based wind resource. These coastal states can take advantage of their most promising renewable resource by using larger wind farms with larger turbines that can take advantage of stronger and steadier winds offshore.
The Mid-Atlantic region is ideally suited for offshore wind. It offers more than 60,000 MW of offshore wind potential in relatively shallow waters that extend miles out to sea. These shallow waters make it easier to install turbines 10-15 miles offshore, meaning wind projects can take advantage of stronger winds and are virtually out-of-sight from land. With few other renewable energy options ideally suited for the Atlantic coast, the AWC backbone helps states meet their renewable energy goals and standards (PDF) by enabling a local offshore wind industry to deploy thousands of megawatts of clean, cost-effective wind energy.
The AWC backbone is critical to more rapidly scaling up offshore wind because without it, offshore wind developers would be forced to build individual radial transmission lines from each offshore wind project to the shore, requiring additional time consuming permitting and environmental studies and making balancing the grid more difficult. As those in the Northeast remember from the2003 blackout, transmission is severely overstretched on the east coast. The AWC project relieves grid congestion in one of twoNational Interest Electric Transmission Corridorswhich were deemed to have significant network congestion and need speedy creation of transmission capacity.
The AWC project is led by independent transmission companyTrans-Electand is financed by Google,Good Energiesand Marubeni Corporation. We are investing 37.5% of the equity in this initial development stage, with the goal of obtaining all the necessary approvals to finance and begin constructing the line. Although the development stage requires only a small part of the total estimated project budget, it represents a critical stage for the project.
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. This willingness to be ahead of the industry and invest in large scale innovative projects is core to our success as a company.
From the Great Plains to the waters off the coast of Northern Europe, windmills churn out clean power that lights our homes and powers our economies. We are pleased to support this investment that will ultimately enable the Mid Atlantic to benefit from the tremendous wind resource off its coast.
Posted by Rick Needham, Green Business Operations Director