October 13, 2010

Google Backing $5 Billion Wind Project On East Coast

Investors announced a $5 billion project on Tuesday to power the U.S. East Coast with wind from the Atlantic Ocean, in an ambitious bid to spur alternative energy.

The project, led by technology giant Google, would set up offshore wind turbines and a new transmission grid that stretches 350 miles from New Jersey to Virginia, which is the most densely population part of the U.S.

Google said it would provide 37.5 percent of the initial funding for the project.

Rick Needham, director of green business operations and strategy at Google, said the project was a new "superhighway" for alternative energy, creating jobs and eventually providing enough power for 1.9 million households.

"We're willing to take calculated risks on large-scale projects that can move an industry. Indeed, that is what's made our company so successful to date," Needham told a news conference in Washington.

The companies said they hope to start working on the project in early 2013 and have it completed by 2020.  Needham said Google was open to further investments later.

Bob Mitchell, the chief executive of Trans-Elect, said the project could rack up a cost of $5 billion.

A company that invests in green energy, Good Energies, also is investing 37.5 percent of the project.

John Breckenridge, an executive at Good Energies, said the Atlantic Wind Connection project hopes to succeed in "fixing a lot of what's been done wrong" in renewable energy.

"Renewables have been deployed in a very haphazard manner around the world, where you've installed solar farms, wind farms, without looking at the whole," Breckenridge told the news conference.

"This project enables us to do this in a planned way that will optimize this and really create the basis for the kind of energy infrastructure that we as a country and really as a world need to evolve to," he said.

Offshore projects have brought criticism from residents who find them an eyesore and environmentalist who fear they will harm animals, particularly migratory birds.

Mitchell told the conference that the Atlantic Wind Connection would not face significant opposition, as the farms will be at least 10 miles from the coast.

However, he did say that the grid may transport a "relatively small percentage" of energy from coal, which environmentalist see as one of the dirtiest forms of energy.

European nations lead the world total energy production using wind.

Greenpeace and an industry group said in a report released Tuesday in China that wind power could meet one-fifth of the entire world's electricity demand within 20 years.


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