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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Google, Good Energies, Marubeni Promoting Trans-Elect Project

The New York Times
Trans-Elect, Google, Good Energies, Marubeni, and Atlantic Wind Connection announced their plans today at the National Press Club to construct a major electricity transmission project to connect offshore wind to onshore interconnections. The project has been in the planning stage for more than two years and will be located off the coast of the Mid-Atlantic region.

Project Development team:

Bob Mitchell - Trans-Elect
Rick Needham, Dan Reicher - Google
John Breckenridge - Good Energies
Richard Straebel - Marubeni
Markian Melnyk - Atlantic Wind Connection

The system, known as the Atlantic Wind Connection, includes a 350-mile underwater line that could remove some critical obstacles to wind power development along the East coast. Before any wind farms are built, the cable would channel existing supplies of electricity from southern Virginia, where it is cheap, to northern New Jersey, where it is costly, bypassing one of the most congested parts of the North American electric grid while lowering energy costs for northern customers.

Good Energies, an investment firm specializing in renewable energy, along with Google, have each agreed to take 37.5 percent of the equity portion of the project. Trans-Elect is a Maryland-based transmission-line company that proposed the venture. Marubeni is a Japanese trading company that has taken a 15 percent stake in the venture. Trans-Elect said it hoped to begin construction in 2013. If they hold on to their stakes, that would come to an initial investment of about $200 million apiece in the first phase of construction alone. Trans-Elect estimated that construction would cost $5 billion, plus financing and permit fees. The $1.8 billion first phase, a 150-mile stretch from northern New Jersey to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware could go into service by early 2016. The rest would not be completed until 2021.

While several undersea electrical cables exist off the Atlantic Coast already, none has ever picked up power from generators along the way. The system’s backbone cable, with a capacity of 6,000 megawatts, equal to the output of six large power plants, would run in shallow trenches on the seabed in federal waters 15 to 20 miles offshore, from northern New Jersey to Norfolk, Virginia. Within three miles of the shore, regulatory control is from the state. The plan is to harvest electricity from turbines in an area where the wind is strong but the tall towers would barely be visible.

Four connection points — in southern Virginia, Delaware, southern New Jersey and northern New Jersey — would simplify the job of bringing the energy onshore, involving fewer permit hurdles. In contrast to transmission lines on land, where a builder may have to deal with hundreds of property owners, this project would have to deal with a maximum of just four, and fewer than that in its first phase.

The PJM Interconnection, the regional electricity group that would have to approve the project and assess its member utilities for the cost, has no integrated procedure for calculating the value of all three tasks the line would accomplish — hooking up new power generation, reducing congestion on the grid and improving reliability. (NYT, 10/12/2010)

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