US plans first sale of offshore wind rights off California

(Bloomberg)—The United States plans to auction leases in December for offshore wind farms in California waters, the first off the Pacific coast, that will require new, more expensive turbine technology.

The US Department of the Interior said on Tuesday it will auction five leases covering 373,000 acres (151,000 hectares) off central and northern California, enough space to install turbines with a capacity over 4.5 gigawatts.

The Biden administration is seeking to promote offshore wind development near major cities near the west coast, but the region’s deep waters will require floating turbines, a more expensive design that has not been deployed commercially in the United States.

“We are taking another step towards unlocking the immense offshore wind energy potential off the west coast of our country,” Home Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, with rental sales on nearly every coastline. Developers are already pursuing numerous projects in the Atlantic, where the waters are shallow enough to install conventional turbines on the seabed.

Forty-three companies, including Avangrid Renewables LLC, BP ​​US Offshore Wind Energy LLC, EDF Renewables Development Inc. and Shell New Energies US LLC, registered as potential bidders in the December 6 auction.

The plans follow a May proposal from the agency, with the Home Office offering incentives to developers who support local workforce training and enter into project work agreements. The work will need to be balanced with US Navy training activities, and the agency warned developers that potential designation of national marine sanctuaries could affect their plans.

Onshore wind projects are expected to help California reach its goal of a zero-emissions grid by 2045. Offshore wind development is expected to spur new construction centers and supply chains in the region, as it is already the case on the Atlantic coast.

The lease sale “puts California on the path to a global hub for offshore wind technology that will support thousands of well-paying American maritime and manufacturing jobs while boosting the nation’s offshore wind supply chain,” JC Sandberg , acting chief executive of the American Clean Power Association, said in a statement.

Leases will not be issued immediately after the sale to comply with requirements of the recently enacted Cut Inflation Act which ties offshore wind power awards to the sale of oil drilling rights and natural gas in US coastal waters. An upcoming oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico is required by March 31 and the wind leases are expected to be officially awarded thereafter.

–With help from Liam Denning.

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