Oct 18, 2022 - Energy & Environment

U.S. announces first auction for Pacific offshore wind energy

Illustration for a for sale sign in the middle of a body of water

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Interior Department on Tuesday announced the country's first lease auction for offshore wind development in the Pacific Ocean.

Why it matters: The move is a first step toward unlocking as much as 25 GW of new wind capacity for the Western U.S.

  • It's also the first lease sale in the U.S. for commercial-scale floating offshore wind.

Details: The Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in December will hold a lease auction for five wind areas off the coast of California.

  • The lease areas cover two regions on the Outer Continental Shelf, amounting to nearly 583 square miles.
  • Developments there are expected to generate at least 4.5 GW of electricity, according to American Clean Power. The group says that’s roughly enough to power 1.5 million homes.
  • The waters off the Pacific coast are deeper than the Atlantic. Developers there have to build wind turbines that float, instead of erecting them on platforms planted in the sea floor.

Be smart: The move was expected. The Interior Department issued a proposed sale notice in May for offshore wind energy development off California.

Of note: The U.S. military had for years opposed offshore wind development in the Pacific, stating that wind turbines would interfere with training exercises.

Zoom out: The global pipeline for floating offshore wind energy doubled in 2021 to 60 GW.

  • Europe has been a leader in developing such projects.
  • Three floating offshore wind projects came online in 2021, totaling about 57 MW, per the U.S. Energy Department. They include the largest floating offshore wind project: the 50 MW Kincardine Offshore Wind Farm off Scotland.

What's next: The Biden administration is aiming to develop 30 GW of offshore wind, and 15 GW of floating offshore wind.

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