Google invests in offshore wind project

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Google's invested in a project to build a 350-mile power transmission backbone along the US East Coast.

The Atlantic Wind Connection project involves the creation of an underwater cable linking several offshore wind farms to the power grid. It will stretch from New Jersey to Virginia, and will be able to connect 6,000MW of offshore wind turbines - equivalent to 60 percent of the wind energy that was installed in the entire country last year, and enough to serve approximately 1.9 million households, says Google.

Google has made several previous investments in wind power projects, buying a stake in two wind farms in May and agreeing to buy power from one in July as part of efforts to become carbon neutral.

But the US lags way behind other nations in offshore wind projects - it has none operational so far, whereas countries such as the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany are generating a growing amount of energy this way.

"The new project can enable the creation of thousands of jobs, improve consumer access to clean energy sources and increase the reliability of the Mid-Atlantic region's existing power grid," says Rick Needham, Google's green business operations director.

"This system will act as a superhighway for clean energy. By putting strong, secure transmission in place, the project removes a major barrier to scaling up offshore wind, an industry that despite its potential, only had its first federal lease signed last week and still has no operating projects in the US."

The Mid-Atlantic region, says Google, offers more than 60,000 MW of offshore wind potential in relatively shallow waters that extend miles out to sea. This makes it easier to install turbines out of sight 10-15 miles offshore, where there are stronger winds.

The AWC project is led by independent transmission company Trans-Elect and is financed by Google, Good Energies and Marubeni Corporation. Google's investing 37.5 percent of the equity in the initial development stage.

"We believe in investing in projects that make good business sense and further the development of renewable energy," says Needham. "We’re 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."