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Google's Transmission Line for Wind Power Project Clears First Regulatory Hurdle

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May 23, 2011

Google's Transmission Line for Wind Power Project Clears First Regulatory Hurdle

By Tracey E. Schelmetic
TMCnet Contributor


Google (News - Alert) can celebrate a little this week: it's a bit closer to its wind power goals. The search giant and its investment partners cleared the first major hurdle with U.S. regulators last week, enabling them to take another step toward building a planned $5 billion transmission line that would transport electricity from wind farms off the Atlantic coast to urban energy markets.

The companies backing the project can earn a 12.59 percent return on their equity investment in the proposed power line, ruled the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The project, which consists of two parallel transmission lines stretching from northern New Jersey to southern Virginia, could transport up to 6,000 megawatts of electricity that would provide power to 1.9 million households, reported Reuters.

The transmission lines would each extend 250 miles along the mid-Atlantic coast. The electricity carried by the lines would connect with the main electric grid at onshore sites in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

Of course, this was just the first hoop the investors will need to jump through.

The project still needs approval from the U.S. Interior Department, several state agencies, and the regional power grid operator, PJM. The project's backers are Google, Good Energies, a private firm, and Japan's Marubeni Corp.

The companies hope to have the first phase of the transmission line operating in 2016.

There are no major offshore wind farms operating in the U.S. at the moment, though more than a dozen have been proposed. One of the earliest projects expected to come online is Cape Wind off the Massachusetts coast. That project will consist of 130 wind towers providing electricity to about 400,000 homes by 2013. The Cape Wind appears to be going ahead, though the project has been plagued by legal challenges for years.

The Google-backed transmission line project is expected to help the mid-Atlantic states meet their goals to generate more of their electricity from renewable-energy sources, such as wind power.

“Without a strong transmission backbone, offshore wind developers would need to build one or more individual radial transmission lines from each offshore wind project to the shore,” said the project's sponsors in a filing with FERC.

The mid-Atlantic region holds 20 percent of the U.S. population, but the region has limited access to land-based renewable-energy resources. The Google-backed project hopes to alleviate this.

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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