While offshore wind has long been delayed due to opposition, proponents are positive and committed to a future powered by turbines, just out of sight, up and down the coast.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Atlantic states where most of the controversy, and most of the optimism, seems to reside.
In October, the Maryland-based, independent transmission company Trans-Elect announced an agreement to construct an ambitious offshore transmission project dedicated solely to the access of power generated by offshore wind. The so-called Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) will stretch 350 miles in shallow waters off the coast from New Jersey to Virginia and will be able to connect 6,000 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind turbines, providing enough electricity to power nearly 2 million households.
The project is being praised and applauded by environmentalists and elected leaders in the Atlantic states who see offshore wind as their greatest untapped source of renewable power.
The backbone will interconnect various offshore power hubs that will collect the electricity from multiple offshore wind farms and deliver it to land-based transmission lines. The project is being touted as a sort of super highway for offshore wind, giving the industry the scalable infrastructure it needs to become a major provider of clean electricity.
To be sure, none of the envisioned turbines, farms and hubs that would take advantage of the project have been built as of now. The controversial Cape Wind project proposed for the waters of Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts only received federal approval this spring after enduring years of controversy and delays. The proposed Blue-water Wind project for the coastal waters of Delaware is still in the early stages of regulatory review.
Proponents of the AWC see it as a seed project, one that would give the jumpstart to development for a long-stalled offshore wind industry, providing greater incentives for more projects to be built. The huge transmission infrastructure would eliminate the need for individual projects to construct their own smaller lateral lines to deliver power to land-based systems. This would lower costs, reduce regulatory hurdles and minimize environmental concerns. In addition to creating thousands of new jobs, the project will also help relieve congestion in the Eastern states and minimize the variability of wind power delivery.
Finally, with major financial backing from technology giant Google, as well as some other investors, this project could get underway as early as 2013.