U.S. to hold offshore wind power rights sale off California coast in December

Power-generating Siemens 2.37 megawatt (MW) wind turbines are seen at the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in this aerial photo taken over Ocotillo, California
Power-generating Siemens 2.37 megawatt (MW) wind turbines are seen at the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility California, U.S., May 29, 2020. REUTERS/Bing Guan

Oct 18 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden's administration on Tuesday said it would hold the first ever sale of offshore wind development rights off the coast of California on Dec. 6, a big step forward in expanding the nascent U.S. industry to Pacific waters.

The announcement is the latest in a government push to put wind turbines along U.S. coastlines, creating a new domestic jobs engine that is also designed to help wean the nation off fossil fuels and combat climate change.

The sale, which the Department of Interior had said it planned to hold before the end of this year, will include five lease areas that amount to 373,268 acres off the Golden State's northern and central coasts.

The large-scale projects that would be developed in the lease areas could one day generate more than 4.5 gigawatts of energy and power 1.5 million homes, the department said in a statement.

These would also be the first commercial projects in U.S. waters to use floating turbines, an emerging technology. The depth of the outer continental shelf in the Pacific precludes the use of standard, fixed equipment.

Previous federal offshore wind lease sales have all been for leases in the Atlantic Ocean.

By 2035, Interior aims to have 15 gigawatts of floating offshore wind capacity. The goal is aligned with the administration's other target for permitting 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.

"The demand and momentum to build a clean energy future is undeniable," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in the department's statement.

She said the department is "moving forward at the pace and scale required to help achieve the President's goals to make offshore wind energy, including floating offshore wind energy, a reality for the United States."

A formal sale notice will be published later this week, the department said, and will include details on the companies qualified to participate.

Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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