Deepwater welcomes Google to the wind arena: Internet giant’s plan would not impact R.I. projects

Mon, 10/18/2010 - 4:00am

10/16/10 - Deepwater Wind CEO William Moore welcomed Google’s announcement this week that it intended to enter the offshore wind energy industry by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a series of submarine transmission lines stretching 350 miles along the mid-Atlantic coast, from Virginia to New York City. Google, according to published reports, would take 37.5 percent share of the $5 billion project.

“We welcome Google and its partners to the effort to establish the United States as a leader in the global offshore wind industry,” Deepwater’s Moore said in a statement. “Harvesting the clean and abundant wind resources off of America’s coasts is critical to our country’s economic and national security, and transmission of that clean power is a critical component to building this industry.”

The Google initiative appears to be a recognition that there is big future in offshore wind energy. The transmission lines would provide a means to deliver electricity from future wind farms many miles off the Atlantic Seaboard to various grid connections along the coast. This would preclude the necessity of laying a cable from each individual wind farm to the mainland.

“Deepwater expects to construct several of the nation’s first offshore wind farms, and welcomes [Google’s] announcement as it confirms the importance of developing the transmission infrastructure necessary to support this growing industry,” Moore went on to say.

However because Google’s transmission lines would not go beyond New York City, they would have “no impact to the Rhode Island project,” said Deepwater Chief Development Officer Paul Rich. As it stands, Deepwater will still need to install separate cables for both its eight-turbine wind farm proposed for three miles southeast of Block Island, and a future larger farm far to the east of Block Island in federal waters.

Cable situation

Rich said that Deepwater and National Grid will soon commence discussions about a cable from Block Island to deliver to the mainland the remainder of the approximately 30 megawatts of electricity the wind farm could produce, after Block Island’s demand was met (4.5 megawatts during peak demand). The cable could also deliver electricity to the island from the mainland grid when needed.

Rich says the state Supreme Court deliberations about the state renewable energy law that led to the wind farm approval will give the parties plenty of time to negotiate. Oral arguments are not expected to be scheduled until the spring of 2011.

Deepwater is still confident it could get a cable constructed, installed and operational by a 2012 deadline, said Rich. Meeting the 2012 deadline is crucial to the company for federal tax credits.

Rich has experience installing submarine cables. He was the Chief Operating Officer of Neptune RTS (Regional Transmission System), which installed a 70-mile submarine cable from New Jersey to Long Island in 2005. That was a direct current cable, Rich explains. The Block Island cable would be an alternating current cable, he says, which would be “more economical.”

Rich also took part in installing a cable across the Hudson River from New Jersey to Manhattan.

As far as discussions with Raytheon, Rich says it’s an effort to “help get a study launched” to look at energy storage technologies, and their possible uses, such as allowing for electric vehicle fleets.

Rich considers it another collaboration along the lines of Deepwater’s talks with OSHEAN to include fiberoptics with the cable, and sharing environmental data with the University of Rhode Island.

Rich dismisses suggestions that the experimental storage technology is being explored in order to replace or act as a stopgap for a cable to the mainland as the wind farm is being built.

“We have to deliver power to the market and the market is on the mainland,” said Rich.