A proposal backed by Google for a wind power transmission line stretching from Virginia to New Jersey cleared a major regulatory hurdle on Monday. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that the Atlantic Wind Connection could move forward because there was “no competitive interest” for the proposal which would deliver 7000 megawatts of wind turbine generated electricity to the East Coast’s grid. The government’s green light on granting a right of way to the oceanic transmission line paves the way for the project’s sponsors to begin an environmental impact statement.

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The transmission system includes a power line along the sea floor and additional lines ashore that in total will extend 790 miles upon completion. The goal of the project is to link the various wind farms planned for construction 15 to 20 miles off the coast. Rather than have each offshore wind project individually linked to the grid onshore, the transmission line would reduce the number of radial lines that would otherwise be required to carry the wind generated electricity to east coast cities and towns.

One of the project’s biggest benefits, aside from the greener source of electricity, is the potential to relieve the east coast’s grid congestion, when high-cost power generators must operate during peak times to provide electricity in highly populated areas while idle power stations in remote regions are idle. The Atlantic Wind Connection could help solve that problem by bringing in cheaper electricity from Virginia to northern New Jersey.

The Atlantic Wind Connection and its additional sponsors, Good Energies II, the Japanese trading firm Marubeni Corporation and the Belgian energy firm Elia, still face several challenges. While New Jersey has charged ahead with its offshore wind farm plans, projects in Maryland and Delaware have stalled. The decreased price of natural gas and the slow economy has dampened enthusiasm for wind projects as well.

Time is also an enemy of the project’s viability. An environmental impact statement will take at least 18 months and construction of the Atlantic Wind Connection is expected to take 10 years. But with more concerns over fracking, climate change, energy prices and concern over the east coast’s aging grid infrastructure, the massive offshore project will look like a wise investment in a decade’s time.

Via the New York Times