For the first time in history, the U.S. government on Tuesday started auctioning off sites for offshore wind development near America’s Pacific coast. The Bureau of Ocean Land Management (BOEM) took bids for the rights to develop wind turbines in five lease areas totalling about 373,000 acres. By the end of 20 rounds of bidding, investors had committed to a combined $400 million for the five sites — two near Eureka in Northern California and three near Morro Bay further south — which, when developed, could power nearly 1.6 million homes. BOEM says bidding will resume at 10:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday.
In response, Environment California State Director Laura Deehan and Environment America Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy Senior Director Johanna Neumann released the following statements:
“The auction today is a major milestone in California’s path towards investing in offshore wind,” said Deehan. “In just a few years’ time, our state will have a new and important tool in our fight against climate change. We are looking forward to the day when clean electricity from our coastal winds can be put to work cutting pollution from our homes, cars and industry.”
“Transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources has never been more important,” said Neumann. “There are immense public health and environmental benefits to getting our power from wind instead of fossil fuels. It’s exciting to see progress on offshore wind on all of America’s coasts. Full steam ahead!”
The turbines will float in water as much as half a mile deep more than 20 miles off the California coast and send electricity ashore via cables along the seabed. The money paid by the five winning companies will go to the U.S. Treasury.
“Today’s lease sale is further proof that industry momentum – including for floating offshore wind development – is undeniable,” said Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
They mark the beginnings of a critical U.S.-based industry to build floating offshore wind turbines and the technology and know-how that goes with them, said Stephanie McClellan, executive director of Turn Forward, an offshore wind advocacy organization.
“We’re excited that the vast potential of offshore on the west coast is on its way to fruition,” she said. “Now California – and the United States – have an opportunity to be a major global exporter for the offshore floating wind industry.”
The leases were offered by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees offshore energy and mineral projects. Each lease is for 25 years.
The leases were for two areas, one off the coast near Eureka, near the Oregon border, and one off the southern California coast near Morro Bay, north of Santa Barbara.
These deep-water sites are all 20 miles and more offshore, enough that they will largely not be visible to people onshore.