The Google-backed Atlantic Wind Connection passed an initial approval stage this week and will now undergo an environmental review.
The project proposes to build a 350 mile electric transmission line off the coast of the United States, which would connect future offshore wind farms to the national electricity grid.
The latest approval step involved a review by the US Department of Interior, which found “no overlapping competitive interest” in the area.
The next stage of assessment will focus on the environmental impact of the project.
If the project passes the environmental review, construction could begin as early as 2014 and could be ready to transmit electricity by 2017.
David Hayes, US Deputy Secretary of Interior, said “we are moving ahead to responsibly evaluate and expedite appropriate projects for America’s offshore areas, particularly the wind power-rich Atlantic coast.”
The line would stretch from New Jersey to Virginia, and would have the capacity to transmit up to 7000 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind farms to the national grid.
Bloomberg reported that the project is expected to cost around $5bn.
Other investment partners include the Japanese corporation Marubeni and private equity fund Good Energies Capital.
Rick Needham, Director of Google’s Green Business Operations, said the line would be able to serve approximately 1.9 million households.
“We believe in investing in projects that make good business sense and further the development of renewable energy,” he said.
The transmission line would provide the infrastructure which is needed if the US is to push ahead with wind-energy targets and close the gap between the current wind power world-leader China.
Atlantic Wind Connection said that the project would enable offshore wind farms to reduce CO2 emissions by 16 million tons annually – the equivalent of replacing 5 coal power plants.
The line would be connected to the onshore grid at Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, meaning grid-stress can be alleviated or bypassed if necessary.
This could potentially avoid scenarios such as the 2003 blackouts or the situation in the UK where wind farms have been paid to halt wind operations to avoid grid-stress.
The first quarter of 2012 has been the strongest quarter ever for the US wind power sector, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
AWEA says the growth is largely due to the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which is set to expire at the end of 2012.