Offshore wind line to link to Delaware grid
Google-backed plan eyes Millsboro site
The News Journal
The first phase of a Google-backed offshore wind transmission line would connect to the regional power grid in Millsboro, the company has confirmed.
That would put the state, already working to accommodate the pioneering Bluewater Wind offshore wind farm, at the forefront of yet another major offshore wind development project.
The $5 billion underwater “backbone” would connect numerous, as-yet unbuilt offshore wind farms with a 300-mile underwater transmission line. It would help send power along the power-hungry East Coast.
By connecting to the regional power grid at the Indian River substation, the line’s developer could send offshore wind power to the Washington, D.C., area and points west using a high-voltage, land-based power line being proposed by Delmarva Power’s parent company.
The Atlantic Wind Connection said it would file an application today with the federal government for the rights to build on a 200-foot-wide right of way about 10 miles to 18 miles offshore.
The developer said it will file plans for the project with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which oversees offshore wind permitting.
Company officials say the offshore backbone would be as thick as a telephone pole and run past New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. When fully built out, it would make connections on land as far north as the New York metro area and as far south as Virginia Beach, Va.
“What we’re trying to put in place [is] the ability for our own region to develop its own local, clean energy resource,” said Markian Melnyk, president of Atlantic Grid Development, the project’s development company.
The entire backbone project would be capable of handling as many as 7,000 megawatts of offshore wind power, enough to power 2.2 million homes.
Google has a 42 percent stake in the project. The other partners are Marubeni Corp. and Good Energies. It will be run by the transmission company Trans-Elect.
The first of five phases, between Delaware and southern New Jersey, would start construction in 2013 and be completed by 2016.
The other portions of the project would be built gradually until the last leg, from Delaware to Virginia, comes online about 2021, if all goes according to plan, the company reported.
Melnyk said Delaware’s early momentum in offshore wind development helped the company agree upon this area as an early development site.
Despite the fact that the Bluewater Wind project helped drive Delaware to the forefront of the offshore wind industry – its project is scheduled to start producing electricity no later than 2016 – Bluewater has not been involved in the planning of the AWC backbone so far, both companies said.
Melnyk said he hoped Bluewater would participate, connecting its wind power onto the backbone. But the backbone is not dependent upon Bluewater’s participation, he said.
“We want to show them they benefit, and consumers benefit, by connecting to our system,” Melnyk said.
The Indian River substation is on land owned by Bluewater’s parent company, NRG Energy. But the substation is owned by Delmarva Power, which has a permanent easement for the land.
Melnyk said federal rules make it clear the company would not need Delmarva’s consent to connect to the substation, although they’ve reached out to Delmarva’s parent company, Pepco Holdings Inc.
One benefit of using that substation, he said, was the potential to connect into Pepco Holdings’ planned Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway, a high-voltage line running west from Indian River, across the Chesapeake Bay, into Virginia. It’s scheduled to come online in 2015.
It was unclear the exact path the cable would take from the ocean to Indian River. According to a diagram by Atlantic Wind Connection, it would run through the Indian River Inlet, through the bay and to the substation.
However, company officials said the exact path would have to be carved out based on environmental studies.
Bluewater Wind also is seeking to build a cable from its project 13.2 miles offshore to the same substation. It would come ashore through Bethany Beach.
Although it would be ideal to have one cable serving both companies, the timing of the two projects may make that impossible, said Collin O’Mara, secretary of the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
It makes sense for Bluewater to concentrate on the complex task of getting its own project permitted and worry later about whether to join forces with the backbone project, said Willet Kempton, director of the University of Delaware Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration at the University of Delaware.
It’s encouraging to see the project moving ahead and the developers sinking millions into their planning, said Kempton, who has long argued offshore wind could be a prime source of energy for the cities along the coast.
“It’s not just some guy at his messy office at the University of Delaware saying the numbers should work,” Kempton said.
O’Mara said he’s generally supportive of the project but concerned that Delaware residents not be asked to foot more than their share of the transmission costs, since the project would benefit the entire region.