May 25 2011

Atlantic Wind Connection

Published by under Student blog entries

Unlike most other renewable energy devices, offshore wind is a renewable energy technology with a significant short-term upside.

One of the biggest requirements of offshore wind is the presence of a transmission backbone along our nation’s coasts. Until recently, this foundation has been absent because of the classic chicken-and-the-egg problem. Energy developers refused to build the technology without a guarantee from wind energy companies that they would be reimbursed for their investments. Wind energy companies refused to do environmental surveys and economic assessments until they were certain a transmission line would be in place. Fortunately for us, Google has teamed up with other founders to help sponsor the Atlantic Wind Connection, a visionary idea that will remove one major hurdle for offshore wind on the east coast. The AWC will be HVDC cables about 20 miles off the coast from New Jersey to Virginia. HVDC will greatly reduce the transmission waste and will be compatible with the most avant-garde wind energy technologies.

On May 20, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a 12.59% return on equity for AWC, a major incentive to push development forward. They also guaranteed to reimburse costs if the project had to be abandoned. A few hurdles still remain, namely acquiring approval of PJM Interconnection for top priority. Several projects are already waiting to get done and given the length of time it takes to construct these cables, it is important to start as soon as possible.

Offshore wind energy is critically important in my mind. Environmental impacts are reduced since the technology occurs far away from people. Several environmental benefits of offshore wind have been found, including supporting oyster reefs and establishing protected fisheries. Moreover, the costs of wind energy has been falling fast across the globe. Since the US has a tremendous offshore wind resource, which is more reliable and efficient than onshore wind, I feel it is something we cannot pass up. It will be important to track the progress of the Atlantic Wind Connection, a turning point in the move to eliminating the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation.

New York Times Article:

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