Clean Power

Published on October 12th, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer


Google Builds First US Off-Shore Superhighway for Clean Energy!

October 12th, 2010 by  

Some very exciting news for US clean energy today. Google announced on their blog last night that they will invest in a project to build 350 miles of transmission off the Atlantic coast from New Jersey to Virginia to tap into gigantic off-shore wind potential that we are only just beginning to tap into — the first-ever US approval of an off-shore wind farm, by the Obama administration, was just this year.

The new transmission cables, a superhighway for clean energy, will enable the connection of up to 6,000 MW of offshore wind turbines. That’s equivalent to 60% of the wind energy that was installed in the entire country last year and enough to serve approximately 1.9 million households.

Putting this system in place removes a major barrier to offshore wind energy in the US: lack of infrastructure. And it should — with a friendly administration — jump-start off-shore wind in this country. The US currently lags so far behind Europe that the first off-shore farm approved, this year’s Cape Wind, which signed the US’ first offshore wind energy lease last week, was reduced to using German turbines (Siemens).

Google’s new superhighway of energy will be built by transmission company Trans-Elect and be financed by Google, Good Energies and Marubeni Corporation.

Google points out in their blog that just a beginning is needed at this early stage. “We are investing 37.5% of the equity in this initial development stage, with the goal of obtaining all the necessary approvals to finance and begin constructing the line. Although the development stage requires only a small part of the total estimated project budget, it represents a critical stage for the project.”

These four mid-Atlantic states are the middle states central to a consortium of what is now 11 Atlantic states whose governors have signed an agreement to develop their tremendous off-shore wind potential, which has been estimated at 330 Gigawatts in total, more than twice what the 11 states use.

Polling of the 5 mid-Atlantic state coastal residents has found that they are very supportive of the development of their off-shore wind (previous story).

These four mid-Atlantic states that Google proposes to get started with have more than 60 GW (60,000 MW) of this gigantic off-shore wind potential in relatively shallow waters that extend miles out to sea, making it easier to install turbines 10-15 miles offshore, where they are barely visible.

This is a historic milestone for the USA. Total off-shore wind power off the Atlantic has been estimated to be enough to take one third of the US population off the fossil grid.

Image: Google
Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

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  • Anonymous

    America can so!

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  • 6 GW of wind…what would that look like? If they used an offshore version of the world’s largest wind turbine (the 6 MW Enercon E-126), that would require a minimum of 1000 turbines over the 350 mile route, or 2.87 per (LAND) mile through some of the most heavily navigated sea lanes on the planet. Let the impact studies begin!

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  • Thomas Jaskov

    Wow this is great news! Thumbs up for Google. Wish more companies invested in renewable energy


  • And the trend away from addictive foreign fossil fuels continues- well done google. I do also think its important we really look pragmatically at the effects of these off shore farms, we got into this current mess by not thinking through consequences and although this is a step in the right direction I dont want us to do the same thing slightly better- I want an energy revolution.

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  • Roger Lauricella

    susan: Good article and detail to bring to a focus. But you say, “was reduced to using German turbines (Siemens).” for the Cape Wind project. Cape Wind did not have many choices on offshore wind turbines, it was either a German, a Danish, a Spanish or GE turbine (with most components from Europe). Only one real wind turbine utility scale manufacturer in the US that might be able to do it (Clipper) and they don’t have the backing that the others do. Oh and by the way, Goode is a European company, and Marubeni is Japanese. In regards to profit if as I presume Google figures, offshore wind will happen within the next 5-10 years off the Atlantic coast, the one who has an installed or planned and approved grid will essentially have a monopoly on power delivery. The partnership can almost charge what they want to transmit the wind generated power to the shore, smart move way up front. I wonder whether others will come in claiming a monopoly on the delivery and claiming that maybe the government should auction off the rights to the grid. Watch for it, it should be coming cause if Google and their partners see big bucks in the potential others will also and they will claim access and approval should be fair and not slanted toward one party or the other. This is a totally different area than the traditional carved out utility regions or super right of ways for private transmission companies. It’s going to get interesting.

    • Yeah, I should have said “was reduced to using European turbines (from Germany’s Siemens).” I agree, the problem is not that they are German, but European, and unavoidable since it is that Europe is way ahead of us so they pretty much had to be European to be world class.

      • In environmental terms it hardly matters where the wind turbines are made, as long as they are displacing fossil fuel generation. so congratulations to the Germans for winning the contract. To all other countries: try harder!

        Of course, the creation of a wind farm and energy grid only becomes a Good News story when accompanied by the news that a coal-, oil- or gas-fired power station is being closed down. If these six extra gigawatts simply allow for greater electricity consumption then it will have done nothing to stave off climate change.

        Great article, though. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Daniel Essman

    Thank you, Susan, for this article and (all) your past a articles as well. I love to read the word ‘gigawatts’ and preferably with a crooked number in front. Am I being obtuse…but I don’t think there has ever been a company with the global ethics of Google. And is Google expecting this to be a bottom line profitable venture for itself in the long term?

    • I don’t see how it would not be profitable, do you? Google’s transmission for now out-of-reach wind power is akin to the investment in the transcontinental railroads that made coal the power of the 19th century!

  • Thanks for covering this, Susan! This is such a cool, great investment

    • A toast! To us joining the 21st century… at last ! 🙂

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