Google Invests in $5 Billion, 350-Mile Wind Power 'Backbone'


Photo: Andjohan, Flickr, Creative Commons

Today, Google announced that it's getting into the wind power game in a big way -- according to the New York Times, the search engine giant is taking 37.5% of the equity for a $5 billion project to create a 350 mile transmission 'backbone' for future offshore wind farms on the East Coast. The backbone would span New York City to southern Virginia, and support a capacity of 6,000 megawatts of electricity. It would provide an important lifeline to further offshore wind development, and could have huge implications on the nascent American wind industry. Here's what the plan looks like: The plan has been widely met with praise from environmentalists and government officials alike. Enviros like the plan because it marks a major investment in a transmission line not intended to carry electricity from coal-fired power plants, and it should serve to spur further investment in East Coast wind power. Though the reports make little mention of it, the the announcement coincides with President Obama's recent push to rev up the nation's dormant offshore wind industry.

Construction is slated to begin on the backbone in 2013, but even before there are wind farms to plug into the grid, the transmission backbone will serve a purpose -- carrying electricity from Virginia, where it's relatively cheap, to places like New York and New Jersey, where it's far more expensive (looks like the project won't be entirely coal-free ...).

Google's initial investment is thought to clock in at around $200 million, and a New York financial firm called Good Energies is matching it. Further investors will likely be attracted to the project with such big names and capital attached.

Yet while this is exciting news for the nation's flagging energy infrastructure, politicians and pundits are quick to warn that the project, which spans 5 sates and is the first ever attempted of its kind, could get help up in various bureaucratic morasses. We all, of course, know too well what happened to a certain wind farm proposed in Massachusetts 10 years ago ... However, the companies anticipate such obstacles, and the wind farms proposed to connect to the backbone have subsequently been planned for locations that are out of sight from the shoreline to limit the interference from any natural view.

All told, this is an exciting development that could mark a turning point in American offshore wind.

More on Offshore Wind Power
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