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Google Backing U.S. Offshore Wind Power

There is, of course, also the fact that it took many years and lots of legal tussling to get one offshore wind project off the coast of elite bastion Martha's Vineyard approved.

Google explained that it doesn't need to wait for the offshore wind market to develop to find use for the underwater conduit. For example, cheaper supply of existing electricity from southern Virginia could be channeled to to northern New Jersey, helping to lower grid transmission costs. However, at a larger level there remains no cost/benefit analysis of connecting offshore wind to the grid with the goal of reducing grid traffic and inefficiency.

The Atlantic Wind Connection 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. Google referred to it as "a superhighway for clean energy," and stated that this alone would be a more efficient process than land-based energy transmission, with its myriad permitting requirements.

The Google blog post states that the Mid-Atlantic region offers more than 60,000 MW of offshore wind potential in relatively shallow waters that extend miles out to sea.

The AWC project is being led by independent transmission company Trans-Elect and is financed by Google, Good Energies and Marubeni Corp. Trans-Elect hopes to begin construction by 2013.

Google is investing 37.5% of the equity in the initial development stage, with the goal of obtaining all the necessary approvals to finance and begin constructing the line. Google described its part of the $5 billion investment as "a small part of the total estimated project budget, it represents a critical stage for the project."

The 37.5% stakes from Google and partner Good Energies for the initial project phase represents about $200 million each. Google stated that the project would seek additional investment partners, possibly leading to a reduction in the founding partners' stakes.

--Written by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.

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