Offshore Wind Bonanza Beckons Developers in High-Stakes Auction

Bloomberg | Jennifer Dlouhy | December 13, 2018

Eleven companies were vying on Thursday for the opportunity to install wind turbines in Atlantic waters off Massachusetts, setting the stage for a record-breaking auction driven by growing demand for renewable power in Northeast U.S.

After eight rounds of sealed bidding, companies had already pledged $24 million toward the three offshore wind leases that are up for grabs -- eclipsing the $9.07 million the U.S. government collected for territory off the North Carolina coast in 2017.

And with the prospect of dozens of bidding rounds before victors are declared, analysts and industry lobbyists said the total could exceed the previous high-water mark: Norwegian energy company Equinor ASA’s $42.47 million bid in 2016 for the rights to build an offshore wind farm near New York.

“The unprecedented interest in today’s sale demonstrates that not only has offshore wind arrived in the U.S., but it is set to soar,” said Randall Luthi, head of the National Ocean Industries Association.

Some 19 companies were deemed qualified by the U.S. Interior Department to participate in the auction -- higher than in any of the previous seven competitive sales of wind leases in U.S. federal waters. The firms included units of established offshore wind developers, renewable power companies that have primarily focused on land, as well as oil companies, such as Equinor and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

The number of companies that were actively bidding at the start of Thursday’s sale was nearly twice the most-recent record, in 2016, when six developers vied for the New York offering. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is conducting the sale, will name participants after the auction ends, potentially some time Friday.

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