PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Biden administration will hold the first-ever lease sale for offshore wind energy on the West Coast, officials said Tuesday.
The Dec. 6 sale will target areas in the Pacific Ocean off central and northern California— the first U.S. auction for commercial-scale floating offshore wind energy development. The administration hailed the upcoming sale at at a conference for offshore wind developers and experts in Providence, Rhode Island.
“We’re not just committed to the country's transition to a clean energy economy, one that combats climate change, creates good-paying jobs and ensures economic opportunities are accessible to all. We’re actually taking action and driving results,” Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Amanda Lefton told the group.
The final sale notice for the auction will outline the details and lease terms for five areas off California, enough for 4.5 gigawatts of offshore wind to power more than 1.5 million homes and create thousands of new jobs, she said. The notice will include lease stipulations to promote a domestic supply chain and create union jobs.
Hundreds of offshore wind developers and experts gathered in Rhode Island to talk about the future of clean energy— how to grow the offshore wind industry and address shared challenges. The nation's first offshore wind farm opened off the coast of Rhode Island in late 2016. But with five turbines, it’s not commercial scale.
JC Sandberg, the American Clean Power Association's interim CEO, said Lefton's “historic announcement” marks a significant milestone for offshore wind in the United States and on the West Coast.
President Joe Biden set a goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 using traditional technology that secures wind turbines to the ocean floor, enough to power 10 million homes. The administration announced plans last month to develop floating platforms in the deep ocean for wind towers that could vastly expand offshore wind in the United States.
Biden hopes to deploy up to 15 gigawatts of electricity through floating sites by 2035, enough to power 5 million homes. The plan targets sites in the Pacific Ocean off the California and Oregon coasts, as well as in the Atlantic in the Gulf of Maine.
More than half of the nation's offshore wind resources are in waters too deep for bottom-fixed turbines, Lefton said. To date, BOEM has held 10 competitive lease sales and two commercial wind farms have been approved in the Atlantic Ocean.
Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee told conference attendees that ramping up offshore wind is good for the environment but also good for the economy and “we’re going to make the most of it here in Rhode Island.” With the offshore wind power Rhode Island plans to add to the grid, the state could meet over 70% of its estimated electricity demand in 2030 with carbon-free energy, McKee said.
Molly Morris, the incoming president of Equinor Wind US, said the industry is at a critical point and she hopes developers and regulators will come together at the conference to figure out how to make the permitting process faster and more transparent, build up the supply chain and bolster the grid.
Equinor, based in Norway, is one of the few developers worldwide with experience in floating offshore wind. Morris said she's “extremely enthusiastic” about the administration's support for floating offshore wind since 15 gigawatts by 2035 is “quite an aggressive number in a relatively short period of time.” She said she'll be closely evaluating the California opportunities.