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The first U.S. auction of offshore wind development leases off the California coast drew bids of $402.1 million on Tuesday, as the market for carbon-free electricity expanded into the Pacific Ocean.
The auction, which continued on Wednesday morning and represents a big step in decarbonizing electricity and fighting climate change, positions the US as a leader in floating wind turbine expansion, Reuters reported.
“Offshore wind is a critical component in achieving our world-leading clean energy goals and this sale is a historic step in California’s march toward a fossil fuel-free future,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom, in a statement, CalMatters reported.
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California’s goal is to produce a minimum of 25 gigawatts of electricity from offshore wind by 2045, which could power 25 million homes, with two to five gigawatts from offshore wind by 2030.
Last year, President Joe Biden promised to have 30 gigawatts of offshore wind in the US by 2030.
Bidding for this week’s California offshore wind lease sale lasted more than seven hours with 20 bidding rounds, Reuters reported. According to the US Department of the Interior, the projects to be developed in the leases could eventually power a total of 1.5 million homes.
The Department of the Interior’s Office of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is leasing five tracts of 373,267 acres on the northern and central coasts of California.
The federal government has made ten lease sales and issued 27 leases for commercial wind power in the Atlantic Ocean, according to BOEM, CalMatters reported. The two offshore wind farms currently in operation in the shallower waters of the Atlantic coast can generate a total of 42 megawatts of electricity.
Two offshore wind auctions for development rights off the coast of New Jersey and New York held earlier this year by BOEM generated a record $4.37 billion in bids, Reuters reported.
Unlike existing US offshore wind turbines, which sit in relatively shallow water and anchored to the seabed on fixed structures, the California wind turbines will float about 20 miles offshore, attached to cables that they extend several thousand feet to the bottom of the ocean. reported CalMatters. Offshore wind farms off the California coast would be the first large-scale floating platforms in the US.
“The United States still has a chance to lead in floating technologies,” said Habib Dagher, executive director of the Center for Advanced Structures and Composites at the University of Maine, as reported by CalMatters. “But we must move forward on the technological side and continue to invest in research and development.”
Environmental groups, as well as researchers, have raised concerns about the environmental risks of floating wind turbines. Environmental lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Irene Gutiérrez, said there is a possibility that bats and birds could become trapped in the turbines, and that fish, marine mammals and sea turtles could become entangled in the cables.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about offshore wind in the West and what that means for various marine and coastal ecosystems,” Gutierrez said, as reported by CalMatters.
Gutierrez said more research needs to be done and researchers and developers, as well as state and federal agencies, need to regularly monitor the effects of floating wind turbines on animal habitats.
The National Audubon Society is committed to working with the Biden administration to reduce the effects of the wind industry on birds, E&E News reported.
“Climate change is the biggest threat to California seabirds, and environmentally responsible offshore wind power can help reduce our carbon emissions while protecting the birds and the places they need,” said the Initiative’s director. for Clean Energy at the National Audubon Society, Garry George, E&E News reported.