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Offshore wind getting some backbone

Google and a renewable electricity investment company are investing in an offshore, 350-mile long high-voltage transmission line off the coast of New Jersey, with spurs making landfall in Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, and just outside of New York City. Each company is in it for about $200 million, which is about 75% of the total investment.

New transmission lines aren’t normally all that noteworthy, and there are already some undersea power cables along the Atlantic Coast. But this promises to be different in a major way: offshore wind projects will be able to connect directly to this line, instead of each one running a connector back to land. Google and Good Energies (the other developer) have made a bet that an enormous (6,000 MW) backbone will enable many offshore wind developers to build without having to negotiate through quite so complicated an electricity grid as per normal. Sounds like a pretty solid bet to me.

Hidden about two thirds of the way through the above-linked NYTimes article is an interesting tidbit regarding regionalism in power production and clean energy: Governors of Northeastern states are on record opposing high-voltage transmission lines from the Midwest, where wind resources are enormous but underdeveloped, that could bring tons of clean energy to the Northeast. In other words, some local governments oppose the importation of clean energy from outside their borders because they want the business, taxes, and jobs that come along with that development to stay local.

Look, any governor taking this position is obviously trying to protect their local interests, something for which I can’t really blame them. After all, it’s the same tactic used by elected officials from states endowed with large fossil fuel reserves – defending their own economies with little regard to the larger whole. The sad result of all this localism and regionalism is that important renewable energy resources are grossly under-developed in this country. Building up the Atlantic offshore transmission grid is as important to me in California as it is to my friends in New Jersey. We’re all going to need to work as a coast to coast team to really transform our nation’s energy profile.

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