Internet search engine giant Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) will create a "superhighway for clean energy" by joining a consortium to develop an underwater power cable network that will allow a massive wind farm off the Mid-Atlantic coast to provide electricity to four U.S. states.

The transmission project, called Atlantic Wind Connection, is estimated to cost between $5 billion and $6 billion, but Google said in a blog that the project "offers a solid financial return while helping to accelerate offshore wind development."

"So it's both good business and good for the environment," Google said. Google's partners in the project are Good Energies, an investor in renewable energy projects, Japan's trading house major Marubeni Corp., and Trans-Elect, a transmission company. Google and Good Energies will hold a 37.5 percent stake in the project, while Marubeni will hold a 15 percent stake.

Google said the wind farm would be capable of generating 6,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity or enough to power 1.9 million homes.http:/

According to Green Business Operations Director Rick Needham, the project would equal 60 percent of the wind energy installed in the U.S. last year. "This system will act as a superhighway for clean energy," Needham said.

"We're willing to take calculated risks on early stage ideas and projects that can have dramatic impacts while offering attractive returns. This willingness to be ahead of the industry and invest in large scale innovative projects is core to our success as a company," he added.

The transmission project, Google said, will be located at least 10 miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean and will stretch 350 miles from New Jersey to Virginia. The power generated by the wind farm will be delivered to the land-based transmission system via submarine cables.

The announcement underscores the growing importance of offshore wind farms and, according to industry group Global Wind Energy Council, wind power investment may reach $202 billion within two decades.

However, it didn't help much to lift Google's stock. The Mountain View, California-based company's shares were up only 0.19 percent at $539.84 during pre-market trading.

Market analysts said the project has potential but investors will need to wait for a long time to see any return.

The consortium said it will set up a company to conduct a feasibility study by 2013 and hopes to receive approvals from the U.S. federal government and the state governments of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

It plans to start the first stage of the project, which requires funding of $1.2 billion, only in 2016.

Moreover, stocks in the wind energy sector haven't been doing too well lately. Companies in this sector, such as General Electric (NYSE: GE) and Broadwind Energy, are trading in the red. But it is not surprising as only two new wind power manufacturing facilities went online in 2010 through July, the lowest level of new manufacturing activity for the U.S. wind power business in years, according to a mid-year report from the American Wind Energy Association.

Onshore wind power projects are especially in the doldrums, and the largest onshore project in the U.S. to date -- a 600MW project by A-Power Energy Generation Systems -- is still in the planning stages.

International Business Times, The Global Business News Leader

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