National Press Club

Mid-Atlantic wind transmission project gaining momentum, developers claim

December 1, 2011 | By Terry Hill |

Supporters of a massive East Coast offshore wind energy transmission project laid out an optimistic timetable for the effort at a Nov. 30 Newsmaker.

They said a major announcement about the permitting process could come from the Interior Department soon. Still, the project will face many months, possibly years, of review by federal and state agencies before actual construction can begin.

Project developer Bob Mitchell said he was “feeling very bullish” about the Atlantic Wind Connection, which could deliver high-voltage direct current from wind towers spanning approximately 350 miles of shoreline from New Jersey to Virginia.

Planners assert that the initiative would reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 16 million tons a year by trimming coal, gas and oil usage in the production of electricity — the equivalent of replacing five coal-fired electric plants or taking three million cars off the nation’s highways.

Joining Mitchell to describe various aspects of the project were pollsters, equity partners and former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, who has been brought on board to communicate the plan to policymakers and the public in the mid-Atlantic states.

Culver touted Iowa’s progress in wind energy and said the mid-Atlantic states have a tremendous opportunity to replicate the economic benefits gained by his state, which included not only improving clean energy delivery but also creating “green-collar” jobs in manufacturing industries that make machinery for the nation’s power grid.

Asked if the possible expiration of energy production tax credits might harm the development of wind projects, Mitchell said it was foolish for the nation to offer such incentives for only a couple of years at a time.

“If Congress were wise…they wouldn’t do an extension for a couple of years," Mitchell said. "They’d do it for at least five to six years so that manufacturers and wind farm developers would (have certainty).”

Pollster Keith Frederick said his research has determined strong public support for wind-generated energy provided by wind plants located 12 to 15 miles offshore. Nearly four-out-of-five respondents favored the idea and an equal share said they would be willing to pay $2 a month more for the electricity.

Equity partner Google, which has invested more than $850 million in clean energy projects in the past two years, has been looking for projects that deliver a good rate of return and are transformative in delivering clean energy, said Michael Terrell, the Internet company’s energy policy counsel.

AWC would “dramatically scale up deployment and development of offshore wind,” Terrell said. “It’s a scalable platform that would literally create a superhighway for offshore wind (energy) and also deliver a lot of other benefits, such as reducing transmission constraints in a very congested area of the country.”

The mid-Atlantic region, developers said, offers more than 60,000 megawatts of offshore wind potential in the shallow Outer Continental Shelf waters.