NEW YORK CITY — Google is investing in an extensive network of deepwater transmission lines worth billions for future wind farms off the East Coast, the company said Tuesday.
The transmission lines, which could cost up to $5 billion over the next 10 years, would run as far as 20 miles offshore from Virginia to New Jersey. The initial phase of the project would be capable of delivering 2,000 megawatts of wind energy — enough to power about 500,000 homes.
Google, which will own more than a third of the project, has teamed up with other technology companies and investment firms.
“This will have a dramatic impact on accessing offshore wind, and we think it’s one of the things that’s almost required to take advantage of all of that potential,” said Rick Needham, Google’s green business operations director.
Also buying into the project is investment firm Good Energies, Japanese industrial conglomerate Marubeni and Maryland transmission company Trans-Elect.
Trans-Elect CEO Robert L. Mitchell said the first phase is expected to cost $1.8 billion and run 150 miles in federal waters from New Jersey to Delaware and be complete by early 2016.
Google and Good Energies will each own 37.5 percent of the project. Marubeni will own 15 percent. A group led by Trans-Elect will own the remaining 10 percent, Mitchell said.
The consortium plans to finance the project with cash and debt. Needham said Google may seek out other investors. Google hasn’t disclosed how much money the company has devoted to the project so far.
The U.S. is only beginning to develop projects to tap strong wind currents blowing along the Atlantic Coast. The network will tie into PJM’s electrical grid, which serves 13 states and Washington D.C.
The energy is expected to cost several times more than conventional electricity, but Needham said Google still sees offshore wind as an attractive a long-term investment.
In May, Google made its first direct investment in clean energy, buying a $38.8 million stake in two North Dakota wind farms.
Google has also been trying to rely on renewable energy sources for its data centers, whose demands for power are increasing as the company sets up more computers in its bid to index all of the world’s online data.