Google Investing Heavily in $5 Billion Atlantic Wind Power Line

Google is positioned to be a major investor in a proposed transmission line for offshore wind farms on the Atlantic seaboard, a bold plan that could radically reshape the electrical grid in the region.

The proposed Atlantic Wind Connection, which would cost $5 billion in all, would run from New Jersey to Norfolk, VA, collecting energy from offshore windfarms and redistributing it among mid-Atlantic states. The bold plan has been praised by regulators who say it could service many smaller wind projects dotting the coast, and the mid-Atlantic wind farms it would engender would be less likely to raise aesthetic objections than similar projects in Cape Cod and other areas.

Google has agreed to take a 37.5 percent stake in the 350 mile transmission line, along with Good Energies (also 37.5%) and Japanese trading company Marubeni, which has committed to a 15 percent stake.

Trans-Elect, the transmission line company organizing the project, hopes to start construction by 2013. The first phase, a 150-mile stretch from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to New Jersey, would cost $1.8 billion and could be completed as early as 2016, when it could start redistributing power from state to state before the offshore wind farm were completed. The entire project wouldn't be completed until 2021 at earliest.

The plan is an ambitious one, but regulators, investors, and environmentalists agree it's one of the most interesting of its type thus far. "These kinds of audacious ideas might just be what we need to break through the wretched logjam," said Melinda Pierce, the deputy director for national campaigns at the grassroots environmental group Sierra Club. Hopefully the administrative work that needs to be done can keep up with that audacity. [NYT]

Image credit Vattenfall