Google Funds Wind Power Infrastructure

Google announced on Monday it has provided start-up funding for an ambitious transmission cable project designed to link wind farms along the north-east coast of the US.

The Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone is planned to pass down the US coast from New Jersey to Virginia, and is designed to link up to 6,000MW of offshore wind turbines, or enough energy to serve about 1.9 million households, according to Google.

Giving wind power a boost

The project is intended to encourage the growth of the wind power generation industry by providing a ready-made infrastructure for developers, removing the necessity for them to build their own expensive transmission links to the land-based power grid.

Overall construction costs for the project are expected to reach $5 billion (£3.14bn). The project is currently in the midst of an initial development phase where the immediate goal is to obtain the necessary approvals to finance and begin constructing the line, according to Google. The company is providing 37.5 percent of the equity of this initial phase, with the rest being funded by Good Energies and Marubeni Corporation. The project is led by independent transmission company Trans-Elect.

“Although the development stage requires only a small part of the total estimated project budget, it represents a critical stage for the project,” said Google green business operations director Rick Needham, in a blog post.

“From the Great Plains to the waters off the coast of Northern Europe, windmills churn out clean power that lights our homes and powers our economies,” he wrote. “We are pleased to support this investment that will ultimately enable the Mid-Atlantic to benefit from the tremendous wind resource off its coast.”

Needham noted that despite offshore wind farms’ potential for power generation, there are as yet no projects running in the US. The first development lease for an offshore wind farm in the US was signed only last week, he said.

‘A superhighway for clean energy’

“The AWC backbone will be built around offshore power hubs that will collect the power from multiple offshore wind farms and deliver it efficiently via sub-sea cables to the strongest, highest capacity parts of the land-based transmission system,” Needham wrote. “This system will act as a superhighway for clean energy.”

Trans-Elect said it hopes to start constructing the line in 2013, with the first connection arriving in 2016 and the project being completed in 2021 at the earliest.

In May of last year, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond switched on Europe’s largest operating onshore wind farm in Whitelees in East Renfrewshire. The minister also officially opened an academy for training engineers in new green technologies such as domestic micro-generation, energy efficient products, smart meters and to offer energy efficiency advice to customers.

In June of this year, Next Generation Data (NGD) Europe, a data centre operator based in Wales, claimed to be the first in Europe to run a facility on 100 percent renewable energy. The company said it is the only provider in Europe that can offer customers access to the 750,000 square foot data centre running on purely renewable energy.

The data centre operator is sourcing the power from renewable power company Smartest Energy. The provider claims to be the leading purchaser and supplier of electricity from independent generators in the UK and supplies electricity to companies including Marks & Spencer, Toyota, Hitachi and Eurostar.

ISP and hosting company Other World Computing (OWC) recently became the first US data centre operator to run its operation entirely on wind power. The 131-foot on-site wind turbine was erected on 19 October 2009, and has since been providing all the electrical power for its facility in Woodstock, Illinois.

Matthew Broersma

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