No competitors in sight for AWC offshore transmission backbone

The U.S. Department of Interior on May 14 said today declared there to be no competitive interest for the use of certain areas of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to construct an offshore transmission system being proposed by the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC).  

Essentially, no other transmission developers came forward to offer competing projects in areas along the East Coast that AWC proposes to build a 300-mile-long offshore electric transmission backbone off the coasts of New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware. The project configuration will enable up to 7,000 MW of offshore wind turbine capacity to be integrated into the regional power grid operated by PJM.

After a year of review, the decision allows the project to move forward in its permitting process.

“This decision is an important step to advancing what could be the world’s first integrated electric transmission superhighway for offshore wind,” said AWC Chief Executive Officer Bob Mitchell. “Studies conducted in Europe and the UK show that a backbone grid is critical to the success of large-scale offshore wind and could reduce the cost of offshore wind by 25%.  This milestone allows the AWC to proceed to intelligently plan for the backbone transmission system that is necessary for an entirely new robust offshore wind industry to develop in America.” 

A Determination of No Competitive Interest (DNCI) has been made by Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), after soliciting input from other potential competitors and the public.  The DNCI issuance allows BOEM to grant the project a right-of-way (ROW) on the OCS once the environmental impact of the project is reviewed under NEPA, and with further public input.  The lack of competitive interest means that the delays associated with an auction are avoided. 

“This ‘backbone’ transmission project would play a central role in bringing energy generated by our nation’s abundant offshore wind power resources to the grid to power homes and businesses,” said BOEM Director Tommy Beaudreau. “Our next step will be to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of issuing a renewable energy right-of-way grant for this project.”

The AWC project will be built in several phases designed to link Offshore Wind Energy Areas identified by the Department of Interior and complement the progression of the Mid-Atlantic offshore wind industry. Federal officials identified four offshore wind energy development zones a year ago. The project will be built in several phases designed to network those development zones and complement the progression of the Mid-Atlantic offshore wind industry.

The high voltage, direct-current subsea backbone transmission system will be constructed 12 to 15 miles off the coast.

Investors in the estimated $5bn project include Google, Good Energies and Marubeni Corp. in a project that may take 10 years to complete.