* Line would provide wind power to 1.9 million households
* First phase of transmission line to be ready by 2016
* Project will help states meet renewable energy goals
(Adds details of transmission line project)
By Tom Doggett
WASHINGTON, May 19 Google (GOOG.O) and its
partners cleared the first major hurdle with U.S. regulators on
Thursday to build a $5 billion transmission line that would
transport electricity from wind farms off the Atlantic coast.
The companies backing the project can earn a 12.59 percent
return on their equity investment in the proposed power line,
the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled.
The project, which consists of two parallel transmission
lines stretching from northern New Jersey to southern Virginia,
could transport up to 6,000 megawatts of electricity that would
provide power to 1.9 million households.
The transmission lines would each extend 250 miles (400
km)along the mid-Atlantic coast. The electricity carried by the
lines would connect with the main electric grid at onshore
sites in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
The project still needs approval from the Interior
Department, several state agencies and the regional power grid
operator, PJM. The project's backers are Google, Good Energies,
a private firm, and Japan's Marubeni Corp (8002.T).
The companies hope to have the first phase of the
transmission line operating in 2016.
The transmission line project will help the mid-Atlantic
states meet their goals to generate more of their electricity
from renewable energy sources, such as wind power.
"Without a strong transmission backbone, offshore wind
developers would need to build one or more individual radial
transmission lines from each offshore wind project to the
shore," the project's sponsors said in a filing with FERC.
The mid-Atlantic regions holds 20 percent of the U.S.
population, but the region has limited access to land-based
renewable energy resources.
There are no major offshore wind farms operating in the
United States at the moment, though more than a dozen have been
proposed. One of the earliest projects expected to come online
is Cape Wind off Massachusetts that will consist of 130 wind
towers providing electricity to about 400,000 homes by 2013.
Google shares were up 0.7 percent at $533.35 per share at
(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by David Gregorio and