Atlantic Wind Connection Files First Unsolicited Right-of-Way Application with BOEM
Building on the significant momentum in support of the development of the Mid-Atlantic region’s abundant offshore wind energy resource, the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) today filed the first-ever unsolicited right-of-way application with the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) for the use of certain areas of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to construct an offshore transmission system.
“The Mid-Atlantic region’s offshore waters hold vast potential for wind energy production. AWC offers a superhighway allowing large-scale development of this strategically important clean domestic energy resource efficiently, economically and with the least environmental impact,” said Markian Melnyk, president of Atlantic Grid Development, AWC’s development company.
“As we state in our application with BOEM, AWC supports federal and state economic development, environmental and renewable energy policy objectives, including the renewable energy standards of states in the region, and it would enhance the competitive regional electric market by increasing supply options and reducing congestion on existing facilities,” Melnyk said.
The application builds on the strong momentum created by the identification of four offshore wind energy development zones announced last month by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The project will be built in several phases designed to network those development zones and complement the progression of the Mid-Atlantic offshore wind industry while maximizing grid reliability and the benefits from economic dispatch of generation.
AWC is the first offshore backbone electricity transmission system proposed in the United States. The project configuration outlined in today’s application will enable up to 7,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy generation capacity to be cost-effectively integrated into the regional power grid operated by PJM Interconnection, increasing system reliability and reducing congestion in the heavily congested corridor between Virginia and the metropolitan New Jersey/New York City area. This cutting-edge high-voltage direct-current subsea backbone transmission system would be constructed off the coasts of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
The project ultimately will span roughly 300 miles of federal waters from the northern New Jersey/New York City metropolitan area to Virginia. In preparing the application, nearly 9,700 square miles of the OCS were examined in a process that included extensive analysis of the offshore marine environment, seafloor conditions, conflicting uses, wrecks and obstructions, cable and other infrastructure crossings, protected species, cultural resources, geologic and geotechnical hazards, and public safety. AWC also modeled wind speeds, offshore turbine foundation costs, and wind turbine output to discover the optimal places to locate offshore wind farms within the offshore areas BOEM has designated for wind energy projects. That process eliminated 75% of that area from consideration.
The corridor remaining, representing 297 OCS blocks, will be further narrowed following offshore survey activities intended to satisfy state and federal requirements, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act. Ultimately, AWC’s innovative offshore transmission backbone system will require a narrow corridor for the cables buried in the seabed of 200 feet or less in width encompassing an estimated 24 square miles or only 1% of the OCS block area identified in the right-of-way application.
AWC’s offshore backbone transmission system will be built in the Mid-Atlantic Wind Energy Areas recently identified by BOEM, and is designed to connect multiple offshore wind farms to the strongest portions of the existing onshore transmission system. AWC would be operated as a federally regulated public utility with the responsibility for providing open-access transmission service. AWC is not seeking any OCS areas for the purpose of wind energy generation. Wind energy projects that connect to AWC’s transmission network would be built by unaffiliated entities using OCS leases secured from BOEM in separate applications.
Upon receipt of AWC’s right-of-way application BOEM will review it and may publish a Request for Interest (RFI) describing the project and giving interested persons an opportunity to comment on the requested right-of-way. If BOEM determines there is no competitive interest for the area applied for, then AWC would conduct field studies onshore and offshore and prepare a General Activities Plan describing the proposed facilities, existing conditions, potential environmental and other impacts, and proposed mitigation. The plan will undergo environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act, including opportunity for further public comment. The plan must be authorized by BOEM before construction can begin.
The five phases of AWC’s project, when fully built, will comprise about 650 miles of offshore transmission circuits constructed over approximately a 10-year timeframe:
– Phase A. The offshore portion from southern New Jersey to Delaware with up to 2,000 MW capacity;
– Phase B. The offshore portion from southern New Jersey to the northern New Jersey/New York metropolitan area with a capacity of up to 1,000 MW;
– Phase C. The offshore portion from Maryland to the northern New Jersey/New York metropolitan area with a capacity of up to 2,000 MW;
– Phase D. The offshore portion from Maryland to Virginia with up to 1,000 MW capacity; and
– Phase E. The offshore portion from Delaware to Virginia with a capacity of up to 1,000 MW.
AWC’s schedule has manufacturing and construction of Phase A between Indian River, Del., and southern New Jersey beginning in early 2013, with completion and commencement of commercial service in 2016. Phase B of the Project could be operational in early 2017 and would interconnect additional wind farms along the coastline. Subject to permits and availability of materials, components and equipment, the entire system could be in operation by 2021.
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