A massive power-transmission line that would deliver electricity generated by offshore wind farms to as many as 2 million homes on the East Coast received regulatory approval Monday.
Construction of the Atlantic Wind Connection, a 380-mile line capable of carrying 7,000 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind farms from Virginia to New Jersey, could begin by 2014, according to the project’s developers.
The project cleared a hurdle Monday when the Interior Department said it could move ahead after no other competitors proposed alternative projects.
Investors, including Internet company Google, have pledged $5 billion for the project.
Despite the Obama administration’s attempts to promote wind as an energy source, there is currently no commercial wind power produced offshore in the U.S.
According to the federal Department of Energy, the average family consumes 10.6-megawatt hours of electricity per year.
The project would take 10 years before it is completed in five phases. The work would take place several miles offshore in a 200-foot right of way on the sea floor.
The first phase would be a connector between the Atlantic City region and Rehoboth Beach, Del., that could carry as much as 2,000 megawatts of power. According to federal filings, the line would connect locally with the power grid in the Cardiff section of Egg Harbor Township.
Additional phases would link South Jersey and the New York region with a 1,000-megawatt line, connect planned wind farms off Maryland to northern New Jersey with a 2,000-megawatt line, and run two 1,000-megawatt lines connecting Maryland and Delaware with Virginia.
Rhonda Jackson, spokeswoman for Fishermen’s Energy in Cape May, was noncommittal.
The company is currently planning a 25-megawatt, $242.7 million demonstration wind power project off Atlantic City as a precursor to one of several much larger projects farther offshore. The company has a previous agreement to hook up to the PJM Interconnect, the grid that provides energy to southern New Jersey.
Jackson said the company is interested in the Atlantic Wind Connection project and proposal. She also said the company would like, if possible, to talk with its developers. The company always has been interested in keeping costs down and minimizing repairs, she said. But she said the proposal is not sufficiently developed for her to comment more fully.
Some environmentalists oppose the proposal.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, called the announcement “troubling.”
“The power produced should be going to Atlantic City and shore communities where the cost of transmission will be significantly cheaper instead of building this long power line,” Tittel said.
Unless wind projects are built, the line would carry coal-generated power from Virginia to New Jersey, increasing dependence on fossil fuels. If the wind projects are built, the line would serve to carry the power they generate to New York, where energy companies would earn more money.
Essentially, he said, New Jersey utility ratepayers could be paying for the projects without getting the clean energy they produce. That could undercut political support for these and future projects, Tittel said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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