Building a low-carbon economy requires bold ideas and long-term thinking on a scale that matters.
Ideas like The Atlantic Wind Connection.
The Atlantic Wind Connection, you may recall, is a company that has embarked on a multi-billion dollar, decade-long project to build an undersea transmission cable stretching about 350 miles from northern New Jersey to southern Virginia. (See my 2010 blog post, Google's Atlantic coast wind deal.)
It will bring down the cost of offshore wind projects, create a more reliable electricity grid along the east coast and create thousands of jobs. The Atlantic Ocean is well-suited for offshore winds because its relatively shallow waters extend for miles out to sea, so turbines can take advantage of stronger winds and they are barely visible from land.
"It's a scalable platform that literally creates a superhighway for offshore wind," said Michael Terrell, who leads energy policy at Google, a major investor in Atlantic Wind.
But like most big, bold ideas, this one is risky, and so to assure the public that the project is alive and well, its executives and financial backers held a briefing this week at the National Press Club.
Mostly they talked about the economic impact of offshore wind. "Here is an opportunity to create an entirely new industry," declared Bob Mitchell, the CEO of the Atlantic Wind Connection and a transmission-industry veteran. Chet Culver, the former governor of Iowa who is now an energy and infrastructure consultant, described how Iowa has become a manufacturing and distribution hub for the midwest wind-power industry, generating thousands of jobs.
Mid-Atlantic states, he said, now have the same opportunity, if they embrace offshore wind. "We went from five percent to 20 percent renewable energy in Iowa in just five years," he said. Keith Frederick, a political pollsters, said that nearly four out of five people in the region support wind power, and would be willing to pay $2 a month extra on their utility bills to pay for it.
But the Atlantic Wind Connection -- which is a transmission line, not a power-generation project -- won't go forward without an offshore wind boom along the Atlantic Coast. This is not a case of "if you build it, they will come." Until wind farms are developed, financed and approved, the transmission line can't go forward.