U.S. offshore wind bids soar past $3 bln, auction to continue Friday

Feb 24 (Reuters) - The Biden's administration's sale of offshore wind development rights off the coasts of New York and New Jersey surged past all expectations on Thursday to reach more than $3.3 billion, with bidding still not complete.

The auction, which began on Wednesday and is due to resume on Friday morning, is the first offshore wind lease sale under President Joe Biden, who sees expansion of offshore wind as a way to tackle climate change and create thousands of new jobs.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which oversees energy development in federal waters, is offering six leases across 488,201 acres (197,568 hectares) between New York's Long Island and New Jersey, an area known as the New York Bight.

The sale is the largest U.S. offshore wind auction ever. The energy generated from the newly offered areas could one day power nearly 2 million homes, the administration has said.

Combined live bids at the end of the day on Thursday -- following 46 rounds of bidding -- stood at $3.35 billion, according to BOEM's website. That total was more than double the combined high bids from the last five years of government offshore oil and gas auctions in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It's safe to say - based on what we know today - the end results of this lease sale will blow our expectations out of the water," Heather Zichal, chief executive of the American Clean Power Association, a clean energy trade group, said in an emailed statement.

There were 12 bidders participating in the auction on Thursday, which BOEM said would resume on Friday at 9:00 a.m. local time (14:00 GMT).

Bidding on the wind lease with the most potential for energy development had soared to $900 million, with the remaining five ranging between $140 million and $720 million.

The previous U.S. offshore wind auction record, set in 2018, was $405 million, and the most ever paid for a single lease was $135.1 million.

The website did not identify the companies competing for the leases, but approved bidders included entities controlled by Equinor ASA (EQNR.OL), Avangrid Inc (AGR.N), BP Plc and Eletricite de France SA (EDF.PA), among others, according to government documents published last month.

Under the rules of the auction, each company can only win one lease.

Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Diane Craft and Richard Pullin

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