A proposed offshore electric power transmission line could lead to an explosion in new offshore wind farms on the East Coast of the US. What is at stake is nothing short of economic jolt that could stimulate the US marine industries, ranging from ports to shipbuilding, like the space race bolstered aerospace. Stas Margaronis files the following report from the first North American Offshore Wind Conference & Exhibition held in Atlantic City, NJ October 5-7, 2010.
By Stas Margaronis, AJOT A proposed new off-shore transmission line linking Virginia to New Jersey could revolutionize the development of wind power generation in the United States and help fast-track new wind farm approvals as well as spur new economic development at Atlantic coast ports and shipyards creating thousands of new jobs. The 6,000 megawatt project was proposed by Trans-Elect, a Maryland-based transmission line company in a partnership with Google, Marubeni, the Japanese trading company and Good Energies, an investment firm. A proposed Atlantic coast transmission line could expedite permit approvals for wind farms, help utilities more efficiently share renewable energy, cut energy costs and create thousands of new jobs in the construction of sea-based transmission lines and off-shore wind farms. Although land-based wind farms cost less to construct, permit approvals closer to people are already starting to cause opposition and delays. In contrast, construction of off-shore wind farms and transmission lines is miles away from the shore and primarily in federal waters. The cost of the 350 mile underwater transmission project was estimated at $5 billion and completion projected at 2021, according to the New York Times, which added that: “Industry experts called the plan promising, but warned that as a first-of-a-kind effort, it was bound to face bureaucratic delays and could run into unforeseen challenges, from technology problems to cost overruns. While several undersea electrical cables exist off the Atlantic Coast already, none has ever picked up power from generators along the way.” Another regulatory concern is “PJM Interconnection, the regional electricity group that would have to approve the project and assess its member utilities for the cost, has no integrated procedure for calculating the value of all three tasks the line would accomplish — hooking up new power generation, reducing congestion on the grid and improving reliability,” the newspaper said. However there is strong political support from many East Coast governors, Republican and Democratic, who support coastal wind development and oppose buying power from wind generators who propose long distance transmission delivery from Great Plains states. David Hayes, deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior, said several days before the announcement that the new initiative would support new offshore transmission efforts. Hayes was speaking at the Energy Daily Transmission Siting Policy Summit in Washington DC on October 5th. There, debate focused on recent efforts by Atlantic Coast governors to site new electric transmission lines closer to the Eastern seaboard customers. Participants also expressed concerns about long delays in permit approvals for new transmission lines, which undermine the development of renewable power generation. Some state utility executives worried about a growing centralization of permit approval power by the federal government and specifically to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Supply chain challenges and new economic development The next day, October 6th, The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Atlantic City conference focused on off-shore wind projects. There, Scott Daniels a supply chain consultant with Windan Consulting, based in Glenview, Illinois said that the scope of new technology that would be needed to build off-shore wind and transmission systems would