Google Catches the Breeze

Google has announced that it has signed an agreement to invest in the development of a backbone wind energy transmission project off the Mid-Atlantic coast.

Dubbed the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC), the project will utilize a 350-mile span of the U.S. Atlantic coastline to install wind turbines 10 to 15 miles offshore. With a cost estimated to be in the $5 billion range, the AWC will be the first operating offshore wind collection project in the U.S. and will bring renewable energy to an estimated 2 million homes.

Google said it has invested 37.5% of the equity for the AWC’s initial stage, collecting required approvals to begin construction. Last week, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a 28-year offshore lease for the nation’s first federally backed offshore wind project off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Writing on the company’s  blog, Google’s Green Business Operations Director Rick Needham said, “As those in the Northeast remember from the 2003 blackout, transmission is severely overstretched on the East Coast. The AWC project relieves grid congestion in one of two National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors which were deemed to have significant network congestion and need speedy creation of transmission capacity.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, a little more than 600 MW of offshore wind energy is installed worldwide all in shallow waters off the coasts of Europe.

The United States has lagged behind other countries in installation of wind technology. Recently the United Kingdom announced its intention to accelerate development of offshore wind power generation, saying it plans to have wind as the source of electricity for 30% of British homes within the next decade, which would exceed EU renewable energy standards.

This May, Google made its first investment in a renewable-energy project, putting up $38.8 million into two wind farms in North Dakota.  It has invested millions of dollars in renewable-energy startups via, its philanthropic division.  Earlier this year, Google created a Google Energy subsidiary designed to buy and sell power on the wholesale market. The move was part of its corporate goal of becoming carbon neutral, the company said.

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