The Atlantic Wind Connection is an offshore, undersea transmission line that will span the mid-Atlantic region, beginning in northern New Jersey and eventually extending to southern Virginia. The transmission line will connect wind farms that are built in the federally-designated “Wind Energy Areas,” at least ten miles off the coast.
The Atlantic Wind Connection project will be built in phases over a ten year period:
Phase 1: New Jersey Energy Link
Phase 2: Delmarva Energy Link
Phase 3: Bay Link
When complete, this multi-phased project will support the development of up to 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy, which is enough to power over 2 million homes. The Atlantic Wind Connection will also facilitate a new offshore wind industry that can create tens of thousands of new jobs in America.
Using the most advanced transmission technology available today, the Atlantic Wind Connection will be able to move offshore wind electricity from where it is generated to where it is needed and where it is most valuable. And when the winds are calm and the wind farm output drops, the line will be used to move conventional energy resources efficiently from places where there is surplus power to places where the demand, and the price, is high. In addition, the grid along the coast is generally weak, and building a high-capacity cable paralleling the coast will strengthen the grid and make it more reliable.
The key objectives of the Atlantic Wind Connection project are to:
- Provide the most efficient and cost-effective transmission solution for delivering offshore wind to consumers
- Create thousands of jobs for American workers
- Lower energy prices by reducing grid congestion
- Improve the reliability and resiliency of the grid
THE BEST TRANSMISSION SOLUTION FOR OFFSHORE WIND
A transmission backbone is a catalyst for fast-tracking offshore wind development. The project facilitates the future development of the offshore wind by streamlining the permitting for offshore wind farms making it easier and faster to get steel in the water; reducing the impact of offshore wind on ratepayers; allowing offshore wind to be built to the scale necessary to create jobs; and reducing the variability of wind energy.
It is important to note that Atlantic Wind Connection is not a “build it and they will come” scenario. It is planned to be built in phases to ensure that transmission facilities are in service as, and when, needed to support offshore wind development. We have seen examples in Europe where the failure to plan ahead and build the underlying transmission network on schedule led to costly delays in placing wind farms in service.
Streamlining Offshore Wind Permitting
Providing a permitted High-Voltage Direct-Current (HVDC) transmission backbone will avoid each wind farm having to develop, permit and build multiple “radial” lines connecting to shore. Without the Atlantic Wind Connection, each wind developer would have to plan, acquire rights of way, permit, conduct environmental reviews and then construct each radial line. This process has a greater environmental impact, is expensive and time-consuming, and is susceptible to significant delays that increase project risk.
In addition, by providing a “superhighway” for offshore wind energy, the Atlantic Wind Connection allows larger wind farms to be placed further out to sea. Moving projects further out to sea places the wind farms virtually out-of-sight from land while allowing them to harness the stronger and steadier winds far at sea.
Limiting Ratepayer Impacts and Lowering Subsidies
The Atlantic Wind Connection will minimize the ratepayer impact of offshore wind. Wind farms will not need to build many long, radial lines to interconnect with the land-based grid and that provides a significant savings in wind farm capital costs. In addition, the Atlantic Wind Connection reduces the ratepayer impact of offshore wind subsidies by making it possible to deliver the offshore wind energy to the high-valued markets. Using the most advanced transmission technology available today, the Atlantic Wind Connection will be able to move offshore wind electricity from where it is generated to where it is needed and where it is most valuable. Increasing the price paid in the energy market for the offshore wind power leaves a smaller gap between the cost of producing offshore wind energy and the price received in the market. This gap – covered by the ratepayer subsidy – is less with the Atlantic Wind Connection.
Creating Jobs and Economic Benefit
East Coast states are developing offshore wind to gain its clean energy benefits, but also to reap the economic development potential from building and installing offshore wind farms. Indeed, states like New Jersey and Maryland require that offshore wind provide a “net benefit” to the state. That is, the benefits from economic development, job creation, power price stability and environmental improvement must “outweigh” the extra cost of offshore wind.
Manufacturers will only build new factories when it becomes clearer that offshore wind will reach the scale of several thousand megawatts with a predictable, multi-year building plan. The Atlantic Wind Connection will enable wind developers to build larger, more efficient, and lower-cost wind farms that will create the scale necessary to drive localization of the offshore wind supply chain.
A More Stable Resource
One of the most common questions about wind power is “but what happens when the wind isn’t blowing?” The Atlantic Wind Connection can move wind energy from a wind farm that is producing energy to an area that needs power. And at times when the wind is calm, the Atlantic Wind Connection can move energy produced at conventional generating plants from areas of surplus to areas that need power. This means that society’s existing investments in generating plants will be used more efficiently.
CREATING THOUSANDS OF JOBS FOR AMERICAN WORKERS
Offshore wind presents the unique opportunity to create an entirely brand new industry in the United States. With over 8,000 components in a modern wind turbine, many offshore wind turbine components can be manufactured here in the United States. Today, about 2/3 of the components in U.S. land-based wind turbines are manufactured domestically.
There are significant opportunities for U.S. manufacturers to play a similarly substantial role in the offshore wind supply chain. Local sourcing is preferred for towers, castings, forging services, nacelle covers and blades to reduce transportation costs, decrease currency risk, and increase just-in-time turbine availability, product quality and service. As turbines become larger, few suppliers are equipped to produce the unique components and the size makes the components expensive and difficult to transport. The offshore wind industry’s development will open up new markets for local suppliers.
But, manufacturers will only build new factories when it becomes clearer that offshore wind will reach the scale of several thousand megawatts with a predictable, multi-year building plan. The Atlantic Wind Connection will enable wind developers to build larger, more efficient, and lower-cost wind farms that will create the scale necessary to drive localization of the offshore wind supply chain.
According to a 2011 study of the economic benefits of offshore wind, commissioned by Atlantic Wind Connection, the employment and GDP impact can be immense. The study was conducted by IHS Global Insight, a leading global analytics firm. IHS analyzed the economic benefits of building 7,700MW of offshore wind farms and the Atlantic Wind Connection offshore transmission line along the Mid-Atlantic. They found that a Mid-Atlantic build-out can create approximately 310,000 job-years of work (about 31,000 workers) in the US. There will be direct employment growth primarily in the construction of and operations/maintenance of the wind farms and transmission system, but that there will also be significant opportunities to develop the local manufacturing supply chain. Thus, a Mid-Atlantic build-out can create:
- 80,000+ job years from direct construction and manufacturing,
- 98,000+ job years from indirect employment at suppliers of equipment and services, and
- 130,000+ job years induced as wages flow through the economy.
All the additional economic activity would increase the GDP by $33 billion and increase Federal, state and local taxes by $7.5 billion.
REDUCING GRID CONGESTION AND LOWERING ENERGY PRICES
Offshore wind carried by the Atlantic Wind Connection will relieve costly grid congestion. Like heavy road traffic that slows the progress of people and goods, congestion on the electricity grid prevents lower cost and cleaner generating plants from serving customers. That is, when there is congestion on our grid, we cannot use the most efficient sources because they cannot get through. Grid congestion has a significant cost. In PJM alone, "congestion charges" have amounted to $1.4 - $1.7 billion annually.
Relieving grid congestion can be achieved in several ways: by adding new transmission lines; by building new electric generating capacity near load centers, to reduce the need for transmission; or by reducing the demand for electricity in congested areas through greater use of energy efficiency and conservation. However, population density makes it difficult to site new power plants and land-based transmission lines, and a growing population may offset efficiency gains.
Offshore wind farms add new generating capacity reducing the reliance on electricity imported from power plants to the west and lowering congestion along the transmission lines that carry it. Adding the Atlantic Wind Connection provides a new high-voltage transmission line that can be sited more easily than land-based transmission, because it is buried offshore. Think of the Atlantic Wind Connection as an north-south highway that allows the least-cost energy to flow freely, lowering prices and minimizing congestion costs.
IMPROVING GRID RELIABILITY
Improving the north-south transmission pathways with an offshore backbone also supports grid reliability and security. During times of grid stress, due to severe weather, cyber-attack, physical attack, geomagnetic storm, or other significant event, the Atlantic Wind Connection north-south backbone can provide that extra margin of controllable transmission capacity that can keep the lights on. It does this by providing an alternate offshore north-south path for moving power away from damaged or overloaded west-to-east or north-south terrestrial transmission lines.
Grid security is not just a matter of assua recent study of electric grid security and the Atlantic Wind Connection conducted by the Chertoff Group.ring reliability, but also of how fast service can be restored following an outage. This has implications for the ability to restore power to the highest priority locations first -- like hospitals, emergency response centers, military assets, and nuclear power plants. Storms or solar flares can disable large sections of the grid. Since it is buried under the seabed and underground, the Atlantic Wind Connection is much less exposed to physical attack, severe weather and other threats and more likely to be available to support and restore the grid. Being able to hasten service restoration for critical loads is a significant system benefit of the project and is an important system design objective.
The significant resiliency and reliability benefits of offshore, undersea transmission line were identified in a recent study of electric grid security and the Atlantic Wind Connection conducted by the Chertoff Group. The study concluded that the Atlantic Wind Connection provides a higher degree of grid resiliency. This resiliency will help ensure a reliable energy supply, relieve congestion on the aging grid system, and lessen the impact of a natural disaster, accident or other threat to the system.