People love to talk about wind power, but the truth is, it’s a lot harder to make it a feasible replacement for oil and gas than it looks. I met T. Boone Pickens a year ago, and at that time he was just about to postpone his big plan to put hundreds of turbines across the Texas Panhandle. He has the money, he bought the turbines, but what kept him from pulling off this giant alternative energy play was the transmission lines.
That’s the biggest thing that has kept wind power from getting the kind of traction in the US that it’s had in places like Denmark and the UK. Today big news came out of Google. The search engine monolith and two other companies are pledging tens of millions of dollars to solve the puzzle. They’re creating the Atlantic Wind Connection, a 350-mile long transmission line from the coast of Virginia to New Jersey.
The story in the WSJ quoted an official with a transmisison company calling it “a huge, huge, bold project,” that will provide funds enabling the start-up to begin. The chicken-and-the-egg problem of not having wires will be solved, and as the wind turbines are put in place there will be energy to pay for the lines.
It used to be that each wind power developer would have to build their own lines. This new arrangement will cut the costs 17-20%, which could be the difference between a profitable way to generate energy and a bust.
Having a separate grid of offshore wires to move wind energy would reduce congestion and be more efficient, according to the story. I predict that we’ll be hearing a lot more about this in the months to come. Let the turbines spin, and let’s get this party plugged into wind energy!