Elia to Join Google, Good Energies, Marubeni to Finance Atlantic Wind Power Connection

The Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) announced that Belgian transmission company, Elia, is joining the effort to create a new offshore electric transmission backbone system along the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. east coast. The Elia Group operates transmission systems in both Belgium and Germany that, among other things, accommodate large amounts of wind energy.

“Elia joining the AWC is a strong confirmation that we are on the right track and that we will see a new offshore wind turbines industry in the United States. We can learn a lot from each other.”

As an investor and a provider of consulting services to the project, Elia’s participation brings the benefit of their first-hand experience working to develop and construct the European Super Grid, an initiative of similar importance, size and scope to the AWC.

"Europe has 20 years of experience with offshore wind supported with separate transmission lines for each wind farm. Now Europe is moving to develop a Super Grid, similar to the AWC and Elia is one of the first movers in developing the Super Grid,” said AWC CEO Robert L. Mitchell. "Elia joining the AWC is a strong confirmation that we are on the right track and that we will see a new offshore windpower  industry in the United States. We can learn a lot from each other."

"The AWC will provide the foundation for creating an entirely new offshore wind energy industry in the US," said Elia CEO Daniel Dobbeni. "Elia’s first-hand experience constructing the North and Baltic Sea portion of the European Super Grid will be valuable to the AWC team, as the European offshore grid will entail many of the same challenges that AWC will face."

The Elia Group began their offshore experience by building the first offshore HVDC project in Europe. Pulling from this experience, the Elia Group is now playing a major role in the construction of the North and Baltic Sea portion of the European Super Grid, a transmission network that will interconnect Europe and regions around its borders with a high-voltage direct current power grid. The European grid concept is designed to incorporate considerable renewable energy resources, particularly wind energy, and reinforce security of supply.

The agreements provide that Elia will become a 10% co-investor in the development of the AWC project and offer consulting services. The consulting is designed to take advantage of Elia’s overall transmission expertise, as well as their direct experience with offshore transmission development in Europe.

AWC launched in 2010 and is developed by the AWC team, led by the independent transmission company Trans-Elect. Good Energies, Google and Marubeni Corporation are the other investment sponsors. The innovative project has been hailed by federal, state and industry officials as a major step forward in their effort to site thousands of megawatts of clean wind generation some 15 miles out to sea in federal waters along the Mid-Atlantic coast between New Jersey and Virginia. The project contributes to stimulating jobs and strengthens the security of the electric grid and our national energy independence.

Recently, a study of the AWC project by the Brattle Group concluded that the offshore wind generation interconnected through the project will reduce system-wide production costs from fossil-fuel fired generation by $1.1 billion per year. In addition, the development of the AWC Project and associated offshore wind generation will create thousands of jobs, improve electric system reliability and reduce CO2 emissions by 16 million tons annually, the equivalent of taking 3 million cars off the road. The project recently received FERC approval for rate incentives that will greatly enhance development, financing and construction of the project. The project has already filed to acquire offshore rights-of-way with the Interior Department’s BOEMRE, which has told Congress the project is on the fast-track.

Elia System Operator NV/SA (“Elia”) is the Belgian transmission system operator, transmitting electricity efficiently, reliably and securely from producers to distribution system operators and major industrial users. Elia is responsible for importing and exporting electricity from and to neighbouring countries. Elia owns the entire Belgian very high voltage grid (150 to 380 kV) and some 94% (ownership and user rights) of the Belgian high-voltage grid (30 to 70 kV). Elia’s grid comprises 3,485 miles of overhead lines and 1,725 miles of underground connections and is a key link between electricity markets in northern and southern Europe. It also links Belgian producers and consumers. Belgium’s recent investment in interconnection capacity with its neighbours makes it one of the most open and interconnected grids in Europe. Elia has recently expanded its activities on a broader European level and, following its acquisition of German TSO 50Hertz in cooperation with Industry Funds Management (“IFM”), is now one of the top five transmission system operators in Europe. 

Good Energies is a leading global investor in renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. The firm invests in solar, turbine-based renewables, green building technologies and other emerging areas within clean energy. Founded in 2001, Good Energies manages the renewable energy portfolio of COFRA, a family owned and managed group of companies. Guided by the 3-P principle of People-Planet-Profit, Good Energies aims to bring financial success together with sustainable returns for the environment and for society. The firm seeks to help drive the transition to a low-carbon economy, as well as to bring affordable renewable energy to the developing world.

Google’s innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major global markets. Google’s targeted advertising program provides businesses of all sizes with measurable results, while enhancing the overall web experience for users. Google is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia.

Marubeni Corporation is a publicly listed trading house (“Sogo Shosha”) founded in 1858 with its principal office in Tokyo, Japan. Its divisions participate in industries ranging from power and energy to industrial machinery and transportation to foodstuffs and consumer items. Marubeni Corporation owns electric transmission and distribution assets in the Caribbean and Australia and has greater than 7,400MWs of net power plant capacity globally, including power stations in several U.S. states. Marubeni manages its electricity sector investments in North America through Marubeni Power International, Inc., based in New York, NY.

Markian Melnyk developed the AWC concept while researching “Offshore Power,” his book on offshore renewable energy. Melnyk was joined by Ken Epp and Mohamed El-Gassier, industry leaders in high-voltage direct current transmission at DC Interconnect; Eli Farrah, an expert in transmission regulation at Dewey & LeBoeuf; and Robert Mitchell, Paul McCoy and Marty Walicki, principles of Trans-Elect, a successful and experienced independent transmission company. These individuals have formed Atlantic Grid Development, LLC (AGD), the project’s developer.

Dewey & LeBoeuf is counsel to the project and Foley & Lardner is counsel to AGD and represented the company in the transaction with Elia. Since 1999, Trans-Elect, the nation’s first independent transmission company, has been a leader in several innovative projects including acquisition of 5,400 miles of transmission lines in Michigan and 7,200 miles of lines in Alberta, Canada. Trans-Elect, PG&E and the US Department of Energy’s Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) formed a partnership to build 83 miles of transmission in California for the Path 15 project that successfully overcame deficiencies contributing to the state’s 2000-01 rolling blackouts (Trans-Elect and Path 15 were awarded “Infrastructure Deal of the Year for the Americas” by Project Finance International magazine).