Google funds major wind farm network

Sensemaking / Google funds major wind farm network

02 Mar 2011

Search engine backs $5 billion Atlantic Wind Connection venture

If you’re searching for someone to invest in submarine cables, you could always try Google. The company behind the world’s favourite search engine is buying a 37.5% stake in the development of the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC). This 350-mile long ‘clean energy superhighway’ will link together a host of new wind farms planned for construction off the eastern seaboard of the US, bringing the power they generate neatly to shore. Google’s partners in this $5 billion venture are the Dutch-Swiss investment fund Good Energies, and the Japanese trading company Marubeni Corporation.

Construction work on the first farm is expected to start in 2013, with the initial 1.5GW coming onstream in 2016. In time, the AWC’s cables could be carrying 6GW and supplying nearly two million households in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

The US aims to be generating 20% of its electricity from wind by 2030. According to its Department of Energy, at the start of 2010 land-based turbines had a total capacity of nearly 35GW (including some 9.5GW in Texas, which has more than doubled its capacity in two years). However, it was only in April 2010 that approval was granted for the first wind farm to be built in US waters, in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts.

A recent report commissioned by the DOE found that by 2030 offshore wind could feasibly provide 54GW of the country’s generating capacity. And it calculated the total resource of exploitable wind, in US coastal waters and on the Great Lakes, could amount to as much as 4.15 terrawatts (4,150GW). Harnessing the winds off the country’s Atlantic seaboard alone could create more than 200,000 jobs, the DOE estimates.

‘Transmission backbones’ such as the AWC do away with the need for individual wind farms to lay cables directly to shore, so reducing environmental damage and simplifying the approval process. They also allow larger farms to be sited further out to sea. This means they can catch stronger and steadier winds, while being all but invisible from the shore.

- Huw Spanner

Image credits: Monap/istock

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