by Susan Torres
The Atlantic Coast is getting a makeover. Within the next decade, a recent proposal could bring the country’s largest wind farm to the coast of Northern New Jersey down to Norfolk, Virginia. The project, the Atlantic Wind Connection, just got a big boost from Google.
The ubiquitous Internet company, along with New York based investment firm Good Energies, have pledged 37.5 percent of the estimated $5 billion dollars needed to fund the project. It’s estimated the first phase, which will run from the top of New Jersey to Delaware, will be completed in early 2016, according to the New York Times. This section alone will cost $1.8 billion dollars. Once completed, the Atlantic Wind Connection will be the country’s first offshore wind collection project.
The Atlantic Wind Connection, or AWC, will bring much needed relief to the often energy strapped east coast. Power outages are a frequent problem to residents in New York, New Jersey, and more states along the northeast. Aside from the major blackout in 2003 that put the majority of New York City in darkness, outages are often reported during the summer when energy use is high. The AWC will provide approximately 1.9 million households with energy, which could go a long way in alleviating the overworked energy grid.
According to GreenBiz.com, work is expected to begin in 2013. The AWC will lay a backbone to connect multiple wind farms with the potential to generate 6,000 megawatts of energy. On the Google blog, Rick Needham put that number in perspective, writing “That’s equivalent to 60% of the wind energy that was installed in the entire country last year.” The AWC will be located 15 miles off the coast and is an ideal location to take advantage of strong, consistent currents.
While many people lauded the contributions from Google and Good Energies as well as the innovative approach to the project, some warned that the project hasn’t been approved yet and could still face battles. The New York Times noted that there are bureaucratic hurdles to overcome such as permits, and the expiration of the federal subsidy program for wind energy in 2012. Since a wind farm project this big has never been undertaken, it would be hard to gauge how much energy congestion would be reduced and the reliability of service, which could effect if it gets approved.
Needham called the AWC a “superhighway for clean energy.” However, there are downfalls to wind energy. One of the major pitfalls of wind energy is the hazards the wind turbines pose to birds. If the location and environmental impact of the wind turbine aren’t taken into account, a significant amount of birds can fall prey to the turbines blades. Another serious setback to wind energy projects is public backlash. The Cape Cod Wind Farm was stuck in legal battles for years because of opposition from the residents of Cape Cod. They argued the turbines would ruin their view of the coast. More recently, residents living near wind turbines have complained about the noise factor.
Fortunately for the AWC project, the turbines will be located 15 miles off the coast which is far enough for no one to hear, and won’t pose too much of an eyesore. This could prevent a big public battle.
Despite the potential setbacks, it’s great to see a serious investment in clean energy. The additional renewable power that could be brought to the east coast could help bring us closer to a clean energy solution.
Image courtesy of LACoastPost.com.