WASHINGTON, Feb 25 (Reuters) - The Biden administration's sale of offshore wind development rights off the coasts of New York and New Jersey drew a record $4.37 billion in high bids from developers that included major European energy companies.
The auction, which began on Wednesday and stretched into Friday afternoon, is the first offshore wind lease sale under U.S. President Joe Biden, who sees the expansion of the industry as a way to tackle climate change and create jobs.
The administration has set a goal to install some 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030 along the nation's coastlines and several states, including New York and New Jersey, have set ambition mandates for clean power adoption.
"This week's offshore wind sale makes one thing clear: The enthusiasm for the clean energy economy is undeniable and it's here to stay," said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
The auction's scale marks a major step forward for offshore wind power in the United States, which has lagged European nations in developing the technology. Currently, the United States has just two small offshore wind facilities, off the coasts of Rhode Island and Virginia, along with two additional commercial-scale projects recently approved for development.
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which oversees energy development in federal waters, offered 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.
By the end of the auction, total high bids on the six blocks amounted to $4.37 billion. That is more than three times the revenue received from all U.S. offshore oil and gas lease auctions over the past five years.
The top bidder was Bight Wind Holdings LLC, a joint venture between Germany's largest power producer RWE and Britain's National Grid, which won a single 125,964-acre parcel for $1.1 billion.
Other winning bidders included Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind Bight LLC and Mid Atlantic Offshore Wind LCC, both of which are fifty-fifty joint ventures between Shell New Energies US LLC and EDF Renewables North America, whose parent companies are European energy giants.
Other winners included OW Ocean Winds East LLC, which is a joint venture between Portugal's EDP Renewables and France's ENGIE , along with Attentive Energy LLC and Invenergy Wind Offshore LLC, BOEM said.
An offshore energy industry group, the National Ocean Industries Association, said the auction reflected optimism among offshore wind developers of strong future demand.
"The record-shattering interest in the New York Bight lease sale is testament to how bright the American offshore wind outlook is and how confident developers are in the strength of the U.S. offshore wind industry as a whole," said Erik Milito, president of NOIA.
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