Interior seeks public comments on Atlantic transmission project

Source: Katie Howel • E&E • Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Interior Department today inched closer to a decision on a massive proposed transmission line off the East Coast that would help funnel electricity from offshore wind farms to mid-Atlantic states.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the department is requesting public comment on the proposed 820-mile transmission backbone. The agency is also investigating whether other developers are interested in competing for the project with Atlantic Grid Holdings LLC, which has requested right of way for the high-voltage transmission line.

“I think the drafting of a right of way for public lands is a huge positive,” Salazar told reporters. “We’re positive and we’re optimistic, and the steps that we’re taking here are real steps.”

If no other developers are interested after the 60-day comment period, Interior will then make a final decision about whether to move forward on the project, Salazar said.

“The proposal that we’re talking about today is a very significant potential offshore transmission line that has the potential to connect up large wind farms off the coast, and today we are officially requesting comment on the proposed route of the line,” said Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes. “This will kick off what we hope and expect to be an intensive review of the proposal as we move forward.”

The project, which last year received high-profile support from Google, would take about 10 years to complete, Interior said. Eventually, it could help supply 7,000 megawatts of new wind-generated electricity to the grid.

Jim Lanard, president of the Offshore Wind Development Coalition, said today’s announcement was “welcome news for the offshore wind industry.”

Salazar also announced the approval of two onshore renewable energy projects on public lands: a 300-megawatt solar photovoltaic project in Arizona and the 186-megawatt Tule Wind Project in California.

Today’s announcements bring the Obama administration’s total project-approval count for renewable energy projects on public lands to 25. Those 25 projects represent a total of 6,200 megawatts of electrical generation, Salazar said.

“I’m very proud of the work that we have all done,” Salazar said. But he added, “we have a lot more to do.”