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Posted at 1:20 PM ET, 10/13/2010

Google's winds of change in Virginia

By Peter Galuszka

The timing couldn't be more revealing.

Just as Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, pushing his goal of making Virginia "the Energy Capital of the East Coast," was set to open a hydrocarbon-heavy lineup at a two-day energy conference in Richmond, Google struck.

The Internet giant and Good Energies, a New York investment firm, announced a $5 billion project to build a farm of install underwater transmission lines to carry power from future wind turbines up to 20 miles off the East Coast from Virginia to New Jersey. The project would take a decade to complete and eventually generate up to 6,000 megawatts of electricity, or about as much as four large nuclear power stations.

The news came just as McDonnell was to open the energy conference. He envisions wind and solar among his preferred mix, but his plan is heavily dependent on hydrocarbons such as coal and petroleum as well as nuclear.

Virginia has reserves of high-quality coal in its southwestern mountains, but the seams have been increasingly mined out, and large-scale production likely would involve mountaintop removal, a highly controversial practice that involves lopping off huge swaths of earth.

McDonnell has also pushed offshore oil drilling, but his plans hit a snag in April when BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in the largest environmental disaster in the nation's history.

Undaunted, McDonnell is still pushing offshore drilling, and tonight's keynote dinner speaker will be Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, who likes what McDonnell is trying to do. But the Virginia Sierra Club trashed McDonnell's plans, saying they rely too much on oil and coal, and pay only lip service to renewable energy sources like wind and that the states wastes too much energy as it is.

Therein lies the rub. Google, which will fund the huge offshore wind project, is a 21st century company. T. Boone Pickens seems an icon from another era, and so does McDonnell as a result of all this. A more modern governor might have had the Google wind farm announcement taking place at his conference. Instead, attendees will get the usual Texas oilmen.

To be sure, there may be some problems with a wind project of the size envisioned. The area is a busy fishing ground, and tall windmills might interfere with that. It is also a major maneuver area for the Air Force and Navy, which opposed McDonnell's offshore oil plans because they could interfere with military exercises.

But at the end of the day, one simple fact keeps coming up: No one knows for sure if there are big oil deposits off the Virginia coast. There may be natural gas. But there's no doubt how much wind is out there.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Peter Galuszka  | October 13, 2010; 1:20 PM ET
Categories:  Chesapeake Bay, Local blog network, Va. Politics, Virginia, development, economy, energy, environment, military, taxes, traffic, transportation, weather, wildlife  
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Comments

You seem to belive that wind power can simply displace nuclear and fossil-fuel power. Not true. That 6,000 MW line will not be networked with any other power line. That means that if it goes out, there is 0 MW of capacity available. Moreover, wind power does not have anything close to a 100% availability factor. It's closer to below 20%, based on figured compiled in New England. So, unless you don't want to always have your lights turn on when you flip the switch, we will still need baseload units to provide energy, and baseload means fossil-fuel and nuclear generators.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | October 14, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Build the Highway and they will come! The strength of the project is that it can draw power from the most energy producing areas of the grid, and wind farms producing Gigawatts of energy can be built in a fraction of the time, with a fraction of the public liability, than nuclear.

Clean and Renewable Wind Energy Production or Dirty and Nasty Oil Drilling Destruction: Offshore Wind Can Deliver Cleaner, More Affordable Energy and More Jobs than Offshore Oil

http://www.nawindpower.com/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.6613

“A new report from the nonprofit organization Oceana indicates that oil and gas exploration should be replaced by offshore wind development on the East Coast, an area targeted for expansion of oil and gas activities.

The report, "Untapped Wealth: Offshore Wind Can Deliver Cleaner, More Affordable Energy and More Jobs Than Offshore Oil," says that offshore wind can generate nearly 30% more electricity than offshore oil and gas resources combined.

http://na.oceana.org/sites/default/files/reports/Offshore_Wind_Report_-_Final_1.pdf

Jobs; Renewable Energy without Coal ash, CO2, and Nuclear waste pollution; Local investment and clean unsoiled beaches. Nice.

Posted by: Airborne82 | October 14, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Offshore Wind Power Line Wins Praise, and Backing

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/science/earth/12wind.html?th&emc=th

“WASHINGTON — Google and a New York financial firm have each agreed to invest heavily in a proposed $5 billion transmission backbone for future offshore wind farms along the Atlantic Seaboard that could ultimately transform the region’s electrical map.”

330 Gigawatt from East Coast (Mass to N.C.) Offshore Wind

http://www.udel.edu/PR/UDaily/2007/feb/wind020107.html

Offshore Awakening: US Investment Flows to Offshore Wind

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/03/offshore-awakening

Ontario’s Feed in Tariff for developing Offshore Wind resources on Lake Erie is attracting over $83 Billion in investment and generating over $253 Billion in Economic activity and 66,362 new jobs while creating manufacturing, Research and Development, Demonstration and Deployment activity.

Virginia and other East Coast States can create new Energy and Jobs within a short time as compared with the decades it takes for Nuclear, Gas and Oil and their drawbacks of waste and pollution.

Posted by: Airborne82 | October 14, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Offshore Wind Power Line Wins Praise, and Backing

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/science/earth/12wind.html?th&emc=th

“WASHINGTON — Google and a New York financial firm have each agreed to invest heavily in a proposed $5 billion transmission backbone for future offshore wind farms along the Atlantic Seaboard that could ultimately transform the region’s electrical map.”

330 Gigawatt from East Coast (Mass to N.C.) Offshore Wind

http://www.udel.edu/PR/UDaily/2007/feb/wind020107.html

Offshore Awakening: US Investment Flows to Offshore Wind

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/03/offshore-awakening

Ontario’s Feed in Tariff for developing Offshore Wind resources on Lake Erie is attracting over $83 Billion in investment and generating over $253 Billion in Economic activity and 66,362 new jobs while creating manufacturing, Research and Development, Demonstration and Deployment activity.

Virginia and other East Coast States can create new Energy and Jobs within a short time as compared with the decades it takes for Nuclear, Gas and Oil and their drawbacks of waste and pollution.

Posted by: Airborne82 | October 14, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

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