LEWES — Google Inc. agreed to invest in a transmission network project that will be able to harvest electricity from wind farms off the Mid-Atlantic coast and power 1.9 million homes across Virginia, New York, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.
The idea, to be detailed later this morning, appears to follow the basic concept set out in an April study by a team of University of Delaware researchers.
The UD team’s plan was designed to overcome offshore wind power’s main flaw — wind that doesn’t always blow very hard, requiring either costly backup power plants on land or a dip into the expensive peak-period electricity market when winds are limp.
Power from planned wind farms off Rehoboth Beach and the rest of the East Coast would be more reliable if they were connected by underwater transmission lines, UD researchers said in a study published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Linking the farms would reduce fluctuations in power when the wind fails in one area, and that could avoid the need for onshore backups or costly purchases of peak-period electricity, said Willet Kempton, a professor at the university’s College of Earth, Ocean and the Environment.
It appears that is what Google and its partners plan to do.
Google said it will buy a 37.5 percent stake in the development stage of the Atlantic Wind Connection project, Rick Needham, director of green business operations at the Internet company, said on Google’s blog.
The project will cost about $5 billion and Google’s initial investment will likely be about $200 million, the New York Times reported, citing project leader Trans-Elect Development Co.
The network and Google’s involvement will help spur the wind energy industry in the U.S., which has lagged behind China in installing turbines, said Charlie Hodges, a wind industry analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in London.
Wind-power investment may reach $202 billion within two decades, according to estimates at industry group Global Wind Energy Council.