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The East Coast's Proposed Wind Energy "Backbone"

Google invests in a $5 billion project to create a plug-and-play infrastructure for wind energy along the Atlantic coast.

As I've mentioned before, one of the big problems with renewable energy like solar and wind power is that we can't pipe it around very effectively. You need high-voltage transmission lines to get clean energy from the places where it's plentiful—the plains states and the open seas for wind; the Southwest for solar—to the places where we need it.

That's what makes this news from The New York Times so good:

Google and a New York financial firm have each agreed to invest heavily in a proposed $5 billion transmission backbone for future offshore wind farms along the Atlantic Seaboard that could ultimately transform the region’s electrical map.

The 350-mile underwater spine, which could remove some critical obstacles to wind power development, has stirred excitement among investors, government officials and environmentalists who have been briefed on it.


This is basically an underwater cable that future wind farms could "plug in" to as a way of getting the energy they generate to markets on the east coast. It's a $5 billion dollar project. A company called Trans-Elect is doing the construction and Google and a New York firm called Good Energies are each taking a 37.5 percent stake. The plan is to begin construction in 2013. The first stretch, that red Phase 1 line in the graphic below, would be complete by 2016.

This announcement comes on the heels of a new report from the Department of Energy that found that wind energy could supply 20 percent of the nation's energy by 2030 and generate $200 billion in new economic activity.

This map, from that report, shows why this new "backbone" is planned for that location. That portion of the Atlantic has shallow water with lots of wind power potential (the light blue areas).

Obviously, this new transmission system would help lay the foundation, somewhat literally, for an entire market of new wind farms. We should all hope it happens quickly. At the moment it's still just "proposed," but between these huge new investments and the enthusiasm from the bureaucrats, things seem promising.

Photo (cc) from Flickr user phault

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