A critical link for making offshore wind energy a reality in New Jersey is one step closer as the Atlantic Wind Connection announced the state will be the site of the company's first phase of an offshore electrical transmission cable.

The 189-mile-long proposed cable, the first of its kind in New Jersey, would link offshore windmills to the power grid on land, company spokesman Tom Cosentino said.

Construction on the NJ Energy Link could begin by 2016, the company said Tuesday. It could be in service by 2019. The connection, which will span New Jersey from north to south, will be built in three phases. The cable will carry 3,000 megawatts of electricity.

"The NJ Energy Link can make the grid more reliable and lower the cost of energy in New Jersey by delivering both offshore wind and conventional electricity to where it is needed and when it is needed along the coast, whether that be southern, central or northern New Jersey," Atlantic Wind Connection CEO Robert Mitchell said in a news release.

Investors in the multibillion-dollar project includes Google, Bregal Energy and the Marubeni Corp., Cosentino said.

Cosentino said the southern branch of the cable, which would be built off Cape May and Atlantic counties, probably will be the first of the three construction phases. Ultimately, the cable will stretch from Cape May County, along the coast and up into Raritan Bay and New York Harbor, before heading inland in Bergen County, according to a drawing released by the company.

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