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Feds Lease First Offshore Wind Sites on California Coast

The U.S. government held its first-ever lease sale for offshore wind energy development rights off the coast of California Dec. 7, drawing more than $757 million in high bids from five companies.

In all, 43 companies bid for the chance to build massive floating wind turbines in two regions: Morro Bay in central California and Humboldt County along the state’s northern coast near Oregon. The leases cover a combined 373,267 acres.

The projects have years of regulatory hurdles to overcome but could result in the nation’s first commercial floating wind turbine farms. The turbines would be about 20 miles away from shore and would be designed to float on platforms anchored to the ocean floor by cables.

While the Pacific projects are years away from construction and operations, input from local Native American tribal communities will be an important part of the review process, Tracey Moriarty—a spokeswoman from the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management—told The Epoch Times.

Although fishing groups and some environmental organizations have voiced concerns with impacts to the local fishing industry, sea turtles, and other marine life, officials of the Northern Chumash Tribe told The Epoch Times it welcomes the renewable energy project. Some of the massive wind turbines will be built next to the tribe’s proposed marine sanctuary near San Luis Obispo.

“The only interest we have is to prolong our life on this planet,” Northern Chumash Tribal Council Chairwoman Violet Sage Walker told The Epoch Times earlier this year. “This is the first example of how conservation and renewable energy are going together.”

Energy companies in the program will be required to work with tribes, ocean users, and local communities, according to Moriarty, the Department of the Interior’s spokeswoman.

After the government approves leases, the companies will then have 33 years to construct and operate the projects.

“Before the leases are executed, the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission will conduct an anti-competitiveness review of the auction, and the provisional winner(s) will be required to pay the winning bid and provide financial assurance to [the bureau],” Moriarty said in an email.

The highest bids ranged from $130 million to $173.8 million.

“Today’s lease sale is further proof that industry momentum—including for floating offshore wind development—is undeniable,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a statement. “A sustainable, clean energy future is within our grasp and the Interior Department is doing everything we can to ensure that American communities nationwide benefit.”

This was the third offshore wind lease sale this year for the Department of the Interior. In February, the department sold six offshore wind leases off the coasts of New York and New Jersey for $4.37 million.

The department has held 10 lease sales and issued 27 active leases in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to North Carolina.

Jill McLaughlin


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