Atlantic Wind Connection project moves forward, CEO says

The proposed Atlantic Wind Connection project, which will be able to connect up to 7,000 MW of offshore wind when complete, continues to move forward, according to Atlantic Wind Connection CEO Robert Mitchell.

Since the project was announced, it has reached several milestones, he said, speaking at a forum hosted by the National Press Club Newsmakers Committee in Washington, D.C., Nov. 30.

The project is led by Trans-Elect Development Company and involves Google, Good Energies and Marubeni Corporation.

Various parties within the U.S. Department of the Interior “have to read our proposal and sign off on it as a credible project, and so we are anticipating very soon an announcement that the department has completed that process and that they will be making public notification of any other competitive interest,” Mitchell said. “That then kicks into a process of further review and then basically about a two-year process where we do our [National Environmental Policy Act] and other permitting requirements, so we’re very excited about just being right on the [brink] of getting that accomplished.”

AWC has also continued to work with FERC and PJM Interconnection, he said.

He noted that there is a requirement in FERC Order 1000 for grid operators to come up with a process in which the public policy transmission can get permitted. “We are working with PJM on a methodology for how to do that and I am pleased to say that the cooperation and interest that we’ve got at PJM is terrific and they’ve come up with a new process called a ‘state agreement approach’ that would enable states to say that they are interested in sponsoring a transmission project to help them reach their renewable energy goals,” he said.

On an extension of the federal production tax credit, Mitchell said: “If Congress were wise in this area, they wouldn’t do an extension for a couple of years. They would do an extension for some period of time, at least five, six years, so that manufacturers and wind farm developers, both on land and off shore, would know that the production tax credit is going to be there.”   

Michael Terrell, energy policy counsel with Google, said, “We believe this is truly an innovative and transformational project that could drive thousands of megawatts of wind to the East Coast of the United States. It would dramatically scale up deployment and development of offshore wind. It’s a scalable platform that literally creates a superhighway for offshore wind and it also delivers a lot of other benefits such as reducing transmission constraints in an area that’s a very congested area of the country.”

Former Iowa Governor Chet Culver, who is now part of the AWC team, said the mid-Atlantic states have tremendous opportunity to replicate some of what has been done in the Midwest.

“In the Midwest part of the United States we have led in terms of developing onshore wind farms,” he said. “In Iowa alone, we have about 3,800 MW of installed wind power right now. That represents about 20% of all of our energy use.”

Areas such as Camden, N.J., and Baltimore, Md., could become distribution hubs, he said. “They can make those component parts in any number of states in the mid-Atlantic region,” he said. “They can distribute those component parts out to the wind farms. Then they’ll need the supply chain to support those larger manufacturers. So, we’ve done it in the Midwest and I see an enormous opportunity now for the mid-Atlantic states to kind of follow this model.”

One of the advantages of AWC working with DOI is “we can hopefully make it a pretty streamlined process for all of the states that will have to build offshore on that backbone,” Culver said. “At a time when our country is looking for any opportunity to rev up our economy, to create jobs, one of the few areas where I see tremendous opportunity and where we’ve had success is in the wind energy sector. There is no reason that these mid-Atlantic states can’t replicate what’s been done” in the Midwest.

Daniel Dobbeni, CEO and President of the Executive Committee with Belgian transmission company, Elia, told TransmissionHub: “We are still in the situation where we have, obviously, a price differential between the renewable energy sources and the more classic technologies. We have to find a way to get that out and you can only make it a reality if you increase the production of those renewable energy sources because then you create not only a market, but you create manufacturing processes.”

It is important not to overuse fossil fuels, he said, “because whatever we believe, it’s still limited and the more we can use renewable sources, the better.”

Culver told TransmissionHub that while AWC “will cost significant money to build, long-term, this is a real benefit in terms of price stability because right now customers are paying for congestion. It’s almost an investment we can’t afford not to make because as congestion gets worse, it costs more.”

About Corina Rivera-Linares 2807 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 13 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 corinar@pennwell.com.