Google Backs Wind Energy Project Along Mid-Atlantic Coast

Google Inc. recently said that it is a 37.5 percent initial equity investor in a project to develop wind energy off of the mid-Atlantic coastline. The New York Times reported that Google's investment in the $5 billion project amounts to about $200 million, barring dilutions should it bring in other investors.

Rick Needham, Google green business operations director, writing in a blog entry, said that the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone project in which the search giant has invested--along with Good Energies, a renewable energy-focused investment firm, and Marubeni Corp. a Japanese trading company--will run some 350 miles from New Jersey to Virginia. The effort is led by Trans-Elect Development Co. LLC, a Bethesda, MD-based developer of electric transmission systems.

When complete, the backbone, which runs under sea, will be able to connect 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind, sufficient to provide electricity to some 1.9 million households. The idea is to install turbines 10 - 15 miles offshore where the wind is strong but the structures aren't visible from land.

"This system will act as a superhighway for clean energy," Needham wrote.

Bob Mitchell, Trans-Elect chief executive, said that the project will open an untapped energy resource and create thousands of new jobs.

"This new American super grid off of the mid-Atlantic coast will unlock an important untapped resource creating the foundation for a new industry and jobs for thousands of American workers," he said.

Mitchell estimated that the project could create between 133,000 and 212,000 new jobs for American workers, citing statistics from Oceana, an ocean conservation group.

The topography of the mid-Atlantic region makes it particularly conducive to offshore wind development, owing to its relatively shallow waters that extend miles out to sea, officials said.

AWC plans to file a development plan with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, including how it will benefit consumers and businesses. To launch construction, AWC will need approval from federal, state, regional and local regulators and from PJM Interconnection, the region's grid operator.

Concerning Google's investment in the project, Needham said that the search giant is "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."


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