Google Oct. 12 embarked on its latest green technology product with a plan to power offshore windmills by connecting underseas cables along the Atlantic coastline.
Google is investing 37.5 percent of the equity in the early going for the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone, which will span 350 miles of the coast from New Jersey to Virginia to connect 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind turbines.
Not only is that equivalent to 60 percent of the wind energy installed in the entire country last year, but it should serve some 2 million households, said Rick Needham, green business operations director for Google.
Needham said the move will provide Google with a solid financial return while helping to accelerate offshore wind development and improve consumer access to clean energy sources. It should also create thousands of new jobs.
For the AWC backbone, offshore power hubs will collect power from multiple offshore wind farms and shuttle it through underwater sea cables to the transmission system on land.
AWC project leader Trans-Elect, along with investors Google, renewable energy firm Good Energies and Japanese trading company Marubeni, chose the Mid-Atlantic region because of the potential 60,000 megawatts of offshore wind that can be driven to large population centers there.
Moreover, the waters are relatively shallow, making it easier to install turbines 10 to 15 miles offshore. Trans-Elect hopes to start the project in 2013.
"These coastal states can take advantage of their most promising renewable resource by using larger wind farms with larger turbines that can take advantage of stronger and steadier winds offshore," Needham explained.
"With few other renewable energy options ideally suited for the Atlantic coast, the AWC backbone helps states meet their renewable energy goals and standards by enabling a local offshore wind industry to deploy thousands of megawatts of clean, cost-effective wind energy.
Google hasn't said exactly what dollar figure its 37.5 percent stake will comprise for the AWC backbone, though it noted that the development stage requires only a small portion of the total estimated project budget. The New York Times reported today the project will cost $5 billion total.
This isn't the first time Google has dipped its toe in the spreading pool of wind power.
The company, which has been steadily expanding beyond its search engine roots for the last five years, agreed to purchase 114 megawatts of clean energy from an Iowa wind farm to power its data centers. Google also invested nearly 40 million in two wind farms.
Google earlier this week also unveiled its experiment for sending self-driving cars onto the California highways, another bid to curb power consumption.