Capturing the enormous potential of offshore wind energy along the Mid-Atlantic coast took a significant step forward with the announcement of the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone transmission project led by well-established independent transmission company Trans-Elect and sponsored by Good Energies, Google, and Marubeni Corporation.
Designed to accelerate offshore wind development, the AWC project will help the industry create thousands of jobs, improve consumer access to clean energy sources, and increase the reliability of the Mid-Atlantic region’s existing power grid.
“This new American super grid off the Mid-Atlantic coast will unlock an important untapped resource, creating the foundation for a new industry and jobs for thousands of American workers,” said Bob Mitchell, CEO of Trans-Elect.
The Mid-Atlantic region offers more than 60,000 MW of offshore wind potential in the relatively shallow waters of the outer continental shelf. These shallow waters, which extend miles out to sea, allow for the development of large, distant wind farms, mitigating visibility issues and allowing for greater energy capture from stronger winds. With few other renewable energy options ideally suited for the Atlantic coast, this transmission project will help states meet their renewable energy goals and standards by enabling the local offshore wind industry to deploy thousands of megawatts of clean, cost-effective energy.
Without a transmission backbone, offshore wind developers would be forced to bring energy to land via radial lines that can make balancing the region’s existing grid more difficult. In addition, a single offshore backbone with a limited number of landfall points will minimize the environmental impacts of building multiple individual radial lines to shore. The AWC project not only reduces the need to build many lower-capacity transmission lines, but relieves grid congestion in one of two National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors which were deemed to have significant transmission network congestion and need speedy creation of transmission capacity.
When complete, the AWC backbone will be able to connect 6,000 MW of offshore wind, enough power to serve approximately 1.9 million households. The system is also scalable and can be expanded to accommodate additional offshore wind energy as the industry further develops. The use of High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) technology allows for easier integration and control of multiple wind farms while avoiding the electrical losses associated with more typical High Voltage Alternating Current (HVAC) lines. With this strong backbone in place, larger and more energy efficient wind farms can connect to offshore power hubs further out to sea. These power hubs will in turn be connected via sub-sea cables to the strongest, highest capacity parts of the land-based transmission system.
In addition to enabling the production of thousands of megawatts of clean power, the AWC backbone will help spur the creation of local jobs. Development of wind energy off the Atlantic coast could create between 133,000 and 212,000 U.S. jobs according to Oceana, an ocean-conservation group. The U.S. Department of Energy also estimates that more than 43,000 permanent operations and maintenance jobs would be created if 54,000 MW of offshore wind turbines were installed by 2030. For comparison, the offshore wind industry in Europe is expected to create 215,000 new jobs by 2030.
The Obama Administration, as well as Governors, Members of Congress, and key state legislators from New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, have expressed strong support for offshore wind development.
“The AWC backbone will both relieve transmission congestion in one of the nation’s most restricted power markets as well as enable the development of a huge offshore wind capacity that can bring stability and security to the Eastern Power Grid,” said John Breckenridge, Managing Director at Good Energies. “With this line in place, offshore projects can be constructed at lower cost, with less impact on the environment and with the ability to deliver power wherever it is needed along the Mid-Atlantic coast.”
“We’re excited about the potential of this project to help the Mid-Atlantic states meet their renewable energy goals by providing a platform that can rapidly accelerate the deployment of clean offshore wind at lower total cost,” said Rick Needham, Director of Green Business Operations at Google. “Transmission is one of the key constraints to the wider adoption of clean energy, so this project was a natural fit with our corporate goal of investing in attractive renewable energy projects that can have dramatic impact.”
“The U.S. will require large investments in its electric transmission grid to meet its renewable and energy independence goals,” said Richard Straebel, Executive Vice President of Marubeni Power International. “Over the past few years this sector has been an increasingly important part of Marubeni’s U.S. power market activities and we are very excited about our role in this strategic and transformational project.”
AWC’s filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission later this year will outline details of the project including how it benefits consumers and businesses by improving power flows across the region. The project will continue collaborating with developers and officials to map the optimal path for the line. To begin construction, AWC will need approval from federal, state, regional, and local regulators as well as from PJM, the region’s grid operator.
Read Wind Energy Systems: Control Engineering Design from Amazon.