The U.S. Department of the Interior (DoI) announced Wednesday the results of the first-ever offshore wind lease sale for the Pacific region, resulting in more than $757 million in winning bids from 5 companies for leases off the shore of California.

Winning bidders in the auction included RWE, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, Equinor, Invenergy, and a joint venture between Ocean Winds and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

The announcement marks a significant step in the Biden administration’s ambitions to scale the deployment of renewable energy, one of the key aspects of its climate action strategy. Last year, President Biden announced targets to deploy 30 GW off offshore wind capacity by 2030, and 15 GW of floating offshore wind capacity by 2035, in a bid to unlock a pathway to 110 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2050.

DoI Secretary Deb Haaland said:

“The Biden-Harris administration believes that to address the climate crisis head on, we must unleash a new era of clean, reliable energy that serves every household in America. Today’s lease sale is further proof that industry momentum – including for floating offshore wind development – is undeniable.”

The lease sale, conducted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), covered over 370,000 acres off central and northern California, with the potential to produce over 4.6 GW of offshore wind energy, sufficient to power over 1.5 million homes.

Due to the water depth off the California coast, the lease areas all require the use of floating technology deployed at commercial-scale. While most offshore wind developments to date have been focused on shallow water, by installing wind turbines directly on the sea bottom, floating offshore wind enables access to sites at great depths or further from the coasts, taking advantage of areas with higher wind energy potential.

Molly Morris, President of Equinor Wind US, said:

“Offshore wind on the west coast could help achieve the state’s clean energy goals, bolster renewable energy sources, and create new jobs and investments in California. The US is a key market for Equinor’s offshore wind activities and one where we aspire to be a leader in growing this new energy industry.”

For RWE, the lease marks its first-ever commercial scale floating wind project. Sven Utermöhlen, CEO Offshore Wind of RWE Renewables, said:

“We have clear a ambition to establish RWE as a key player in offshore wind in the United States, one of the key strategic markets to grow our portfolio. We will apply our floating wind knowledge and experience in California and continue to develop the market for future projects.”

The lease sale included a 20% credit for bidders who committed to contributions to programs supporting workforce training for the floating offshore wind industry, or for the development of a U.S. domestic supply chain for floating offshore wind energy. According to the DoI, the credit will result in over $117 million in investments for these programs or initiatives.

BOEM Director Amanda Lefton, said:

“This auction commits substantial investment to support economic growth from floating offshore wind energy development – including the jobs that come with it. These credits and additional lease stipulations demonstrate BOEM’s commitment to responsibly grow the offshore wind industry to achieve our offshore wind goals.”

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