Interior Secretary Salazar: Transmission ‘key’ to unlocking offshore wind energy

Transmission is key to unlocking the vast wind energy resources off the Atlantic coast, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Oct. 11.

“We appreciate the proposal that has been put forward by Google and Trans-Elect [Development Company] called the Atlantic Wind Connection, an offshore backbone transmission line that would run from southern Virginia up to northern New Jersey,” Salazar said, speaking at the American Wind Energy Association Offshore Windpower 2011 Conference & Exhibition in Baltimore, Md. “The venture would be the first of its kind…[and] that project’s still in process, but from everything that we have seen, it holds great promise.”

When complete, the AWC, which also involves Good Energies and Marubeni Corporation, will be able to connect up to 7,000 MW of offshore wind, according to the project’s website.

“All of these wind facilities – it’s true whether it’s the Atlantic or the Dakotas or Wyoming – don’t do us much good unless there’s a way to get their energy to market,” Salazar said. “That is, in fact, one of the great advantages that Atlantic wind does have – it is so close to market. We need to do more on transmission across this country.”

He noted that the Obama administration on Oct. 5 said it would accelerate the permitting and construction of seven proposed electric transmission lines that cross 12 states, including New Jersey, which has at least one offshore wind energy project underway proposed by Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey.

“Those transmission projects are transmission projects that we intend to build,” Salazar said. “They will create thousands of jobs and they also will build [hundreds of] miles in transmission across this country.”

He said it is necessary to keep “pressure on Congress” to implement policies that enable a long-term, sustainable wind industry, including an extension of the investment tax credit and a national clean energy standard.

Salazar also referenced the long permitting process for arguably the country’s most advanced offshore wind energy project, Energy Management’s Cape Wind Associates’ proposed Cape Wind project in Massachusetts, as well as the “Smart from the Start” initiative, launched in November 2010, which has identified priority wind energy areas for potential offshore wind energy development.

“We remain engaged and committed with Gov. Deval Patrick and others in Massachusetts in getting [the Cape Wind project] across the finish line,” he said.

Among other things, Salazar said, “Now is the time to do what we have always done best: roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said in his keynote speech that his state is eager to work with the offshore wind energy industry.

“We are the second state to get a request for information out so that we can move forward on offshore wind,” he said, referring to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement process.

According to a recent survey released by the Maryland Offshore Wind Coalition, 62% of Marylanders are willing to pay a little more on their energy bill for some of their electricity to be powered by offshore wind. O’Malley also said that another survey released by the Atlantic Wind Coalition found that 68% of Marylanders want elected officials to support offshore wind even if it is initially more expensive.

“Wind energy means jobs,” he said, adding, “In Maryland, for example, if we are able to move forward and assemble the political will to move forward on offshore wind off of Ocean City, we’ll be able to create as many as 2,000 manufacturing, construction and assembly jobs each year, on top of the 400 permanent jobs we create upon completion.”

Speaking with TransmissionHub, Malcolm Woolf, director of the Maryland Energy Administration, said one of the great advantages of offshore wind is that it is relatively close to load centers. “One of the other advantages of offshore wind transmission is you’re not building in anyone’s backyard – you bury the transmission lines,” he said. “It doesn’t have much, if any, environmental impact and you don’t need to cut down mountains or forests, or impact anyone’s view shed, so it’s a whole lot easier to build offshore backbone transmission than if we’re to try to build a new transmission line land-based.”

Jim Lanard, president of the Offshore Wind Development Coalition, noted that individually, developers are looking at interconnections from their wind projects to the mainland, while the Atlantic Wind Connection is looking at a grid connection that could service multiple wind farms.

“The developers are open to either option,” he told TransmissionHub. “What they want to see, though, is which can come first in time for their projects. They can’t risk stranding their assets out there [without] any ability to deliver that power to the mainland.”

Lanard also referenced Deepwater Wind’s proposed regional offshore transmission network in the northeast, saying: “I think you’ll see a lot of use of those types of transmission systems. It will not be a constraint – it’s going to be an asset.”

AWEA CEO Denise Bode told TransmissionHub that transmission is part of every build-out of remote energy, whether it be wind or anything else. “[Y]ou’re building a whole new transmission system, but the thing about it is, the distance isn’t so far,” she said. “It is underwater, but we have experience in the United States in building underwater gas pipelines and oil pipelines and transmission lines for telecommunication, so it is not a big leap to do the electric transmission lines.”

Anything in the water is more expensive than things being built on the ground, Bode said, adding, “[B]ecause of the distance, I think it can all be overcome. … We did it in the oil and gas industry and developed a huge industry around the world and we can do it in wind and, frankly, this one is pretty sustainable – it’s not going to run out.”

About Corina Rivera-Linares 2850 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 14 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at