Google invests in East Coast offshore wind energy by Seth Weintraub @FortuneMagazine October 12, 2010, 2:12 PM EST E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons The offshore wind-energy backbone will strengthen the electricity grid for East Coast population centers. Google GOOG announced they signed an agreement to invest in the development of a backbone transmission project off the Mid-Atlantic coast. They cite the project’s ability to create thousands of jobs, improve consumer access to clean energy sources and increase the reliability of the Mid-Atlantic region’s power grid. The Google provided map shows a big footprint covering an area from New York City to Virginia. Google isn’t building windmills. They are investing in building the backbone that will carry the power from windmills built in the future. As it stands, a windmill builder would not only have to build the turbine, but also connect the power to the mainland. With the infrastructure already built and a backbone stretching for 350 miles offshore, it will be easier for these companies to build turbines and connect to the grid. These shallow waters make it easier to install turbines 10-15 miles offshore, meaning wind projects can take advantage of stronger winds and are virtually out-of-sight from land. With few other renewable energy options ideally suited for the Atlantic coast, the AWC backbone helps states meet their renewable energy goals and standards (PDF) by enabling a local offshore wind industry to deploy thousands of megawatts of clean, cost-effective wind energy. It also saves Google and the companies it invests with from lawsuits from wealthy ocean-front land owners and fossil fuel companies who have made it difficult for wind farms to be built in places like Nantucket. The companies that build the turbines, often affiliated with government, are better equipped to handle those tasks. When built out, the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone will stretch 350 miles off the coast from New Jersey to Virginia and will be able to connect 6,000MW of offshore wind turbines. That’s equivalent to 60% of the wind energy that was installed in the entire country last year and enough to serve approximately 1.9 million households. Google is a minority stakeholder in the project. The AWC project is led by independent transmission company Trans-Elect and is financed by Google, Good Energies and Marubeni Corporation. We are investing 37.5% of the equity in this initial development stage, with the goal of obtaining all the necessary approvals to finance and begin constructing the line. Although the development stage requires only a small part of the total estimated project budget, it represents a critical stage for the project. Projects like these aren’t just to make the electricity that Google needs more reliable and less expensive (and a return on their investment), it also helps foster an environmental image for Google which is much more valuable than any profits they’ll receive.