Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dangerous Power Transmission Line Proposed for Ocean

It’s called the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) – but what it is - is the Atlantic Coal Connection.  It is an 820- mile ocean transmission line that is proposed to connect to Mid-Atlantic power grids from Virginia to New York.  Once completed in 10 years, up to 7,000 MW of energy could be transferred through high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines.  Conventional energy sources, such as from coal plants in Virginia and Maryland, will transmit power to the New York City region. 

The line also proposes to connect to offshore wind facilities and transport wind energy to shore.  However, there are no wind facilities now in the Mid-Atlantic ocean, no wind projects proposed without transmission capability, and no laws or regulations which would allow offshore renewable energy projects to be proposed without a way to transmit energy to land.  Indeed, there are no regulations that would require that any ocean renewable energy projects make contracts for electrical transmission with the AWC developers.  Each applicant is free to choose their own manner of transmission to shore and will likely avoid the AWC route and “middleman”, preferring to sell their power directly to the grid.  The AWC line is unnecessary, duplicative, and not in the public’s interest.

DC lines would be used to reduce power losses associated with AC transmission lines, however, substantial power losses would still occur in the proposed energy converters.  Wind facilities would, in theory, transmit their AC power through additional AC lines to up to 9 huge offshore floating platforms (that are almost 90 yards long, a little wider than a football field, and over 10 stories high!).  These platforms would convert the power to DC than send it to large shore facilities where the power would be converted back to AC. 

The ROW application lacks important information on environmental impacts and even specific locations as to where the line and onshore facilities will be built and brought onshore.  This high-risk project will pose navigational hazards and will damage and be dangerous to the marine environment.  How will offshore platforms be secured?  We know that hurricanes have destroyed and washed oil platforms onshore.  Seafloor marine life and habitat will be disturbed and destroyed to anchor these platforms and install hundreds of miles of transmission lines.   Coastal habitats for marine life (and people too – as much of the Mid-Atlantic Coast is already developed) will also be impacted by onshore facilities.  The project will affect Essential Fish Habitat for at least 91 fish and invertebrate species.  High voltage DC lines also generate electrical fields and can alter geomagnetic fields – which could impact sensitive species, such as sharks, dolphins, fish,  eels, and turtles, and could disorientate many migratory species.  There are several endangered and threatened species in the region that would be at risk.

COA has demanded that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) deny the AWC Right-of-Way (ROW) Grant application as the project is unneeded, has the potential to impact the ecosystem, clean ocean economies, and people of the region, and is not allowable under existing federal laws and regulations. 

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