Google Makes Big Investment in Wind-Energy

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Back in May Google Inc. invested $38.8 million in two North Dakota wind farms. This was the company’s first investment in a utility-scale wind-energy project. Google’s green business operations manager, Rick Needham, said then that Google is
“aiming to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy—in a way that makes good business sense, too.” Yesterday it was announced that Google will again invest in wind-energy, this time an offshore project on the East Coast. The transmission line offshore will be 350 miles long from Virginia to New Jersey, will hopes that close to 2 millions homes can be powered by the project. Along with Google, initial funding was supplied by Good Energies and the Japanese company, Marubeni Corp. Projections of the total cost of the offshore transmission line are currently at $5 billion so the three investors are really only providing a small percentage of the total cost.

This will be one of the first offshore wind turbine projects in the Atlantic Ocean due to regulatory issues and a need for wind-energy to become more economically sound. Last week a 130 turbine commercial wind-energy project was approved to be development in the Nantucket Sound, where there was a long-standing opposition from residents of the area. The Atlantic Wind Connection project might have less resistance from East Coast residents because turbines can be installed 10 to 15 miles offshore, not visible from the shore and more importantly, being set-up in the midst of the strongest winds. Bob Mitchell, the chief executive of the company involved in the project, Trans-Elec Development Co., said that Google’s and other large corporate investments in long transmission lines will help development of wind-energy because cost will decrease by upwards of 20%.

There are multiple phases to this project, the first phase just to prepare for construction may cost over $1 billion. After that time, Google and the other investors will think about how much more they will be willing to invest in the project beyond the ten’s of millions initially set-out, if they want to fund anymore at all. Besides outside investment, much effort will need to come from the project team in receiving permits from state and federal government agencies.

Image Credit: Hopeful in NJ under CC license via Flickr.

1 thought on “Google Makes Big Investment in Wind-Energy”

  1. Google Likes Wind. Shouldn’t Arizona?

    According to a new research report by the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL), the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the “stimulus bill” as most of us know it) did a lot of good for America’s wind industry. It’s hip, too. In May Google invested $38.8 million in two North Dakota wind farms. And last week the company announced that it will invest in the Atlantic Wind Connection – a massive new project off the East Coast.

    Yet the debate about wind as a renewable energy source we should continue to pursue is not closed. As always, there are pluses and minuses.

    Pros of wind power
    – No water necessary
    – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
    – Completely emissions-free

    Cons of wind power
    – Wind power needs a lot of land per megawatt
    – Wind power has a relatively low capacity factor (the ratio of actual output to listed capacity)
    – Wind turbines kill birds

    As I’ve always said, the fact that there are downsides to wind power does not mean we shouldn’t consider it as part of our energy portfolio. It does mean we should consider it carefully.

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