The developer of what is touted as the first U.S. offshore wind energy transmission system, to run from Virginia to New York City, has picked Bechtel Group as EPC contractor for the first 189-mile, $1.8-billion leg off the New Jersey coast.

Atlantic Wind Connection, a consortium led by internet giant Google, said construction would begin in early 2016 and be built in three phases over a decade. The first phase is to be in service in 2019. Alstom also was named as equipment supplier and technical adviser on the project's high-voltage, direct-current system. "Adding Bechtel and Alstom was a huge step for the project," Atlantic Wind CEO Robert Mitchell told ENR. While the agreement with Bechtel is private, the firm is "stepping up to the plate" and taking some risk as well, Mitchell says. He would not elaborate on Bechtel's financial role.

The project was conceived to transport power generated from offshore wind projects that will be built along the Atlantic Coast where wind is the strongest, but it also will boost the East Coast's transmission grid, Mitchell said. The company chose to start off the coast of New Jersey because power prices there fluctuate greatly between the state's more congested northern part and its southern part, says a project spokesman. It also will allow power from other regions to be delivered to areas hit by storms.

Bechtel says it will engineer and install onshore transmission lines and substations as well as two onshore and two offshore converter stations. It will also oversee the offshore installation of a first-of-a-kind high-voltage, direct-current converter-technology system to transport 3,000 MW of electricity.

The project has received a Dept. of the Interior notice of no competing interests, but it still faces other federal and state permitting and environmental challenges.