Under the auction, which could be announced as soon as Wednesday, the U.S. government aims to sell leases to install wind turbines in shallow Atlantic waters between New Jersey and New York’s Long Island, with the potential to generate some 7 gigawatts of carbon-free electricity.
The Interior Department proposed the sale last June and is now preparing to announce the final details, said three people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because the plan isn’t public.
The sale will give wind developers a crack at coveted territory close to New York City and the Northeast U.S., while helping fulfill President Joe Biden’s goal of installing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030. The sale represents the culmination of years of deliberation over how to balance renewable power development and commercial fishing interests in a region home to some of the world’s richest scallop beds.
As a sign of the opposition, a conservation group on Monday sued the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, asking a federal court to reverse the agency’s March 2021 decision to recommend five areas for offshore wind projects in the New York Bight.
Save Long Beach Island told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that the bureau failed to study the effects the projects would have on the environment. The group also faulted the agency for failing to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine if any wind project would affect North Atlantic right whales or other protected species.
Separately Tuesday, groups representing fishing interests, including the Responsible Offshore Development Association, urged the bureau to take more steps to limit the impacts of offshore wind development, including by developing formal benchmarks to assess projects.
Supporters have said the New York Bight lease sale will spur economic activity across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. The administration has weighed requirements aimed at ensuring that companies buying the leases make reasonable efforts to enter into project labor agreements covering the developments.
It is set to be the first competitive offshore wind auction under Biden, building on more than a dozen leases previously sold along the U.S. East Coast. The Interior Department also is considering selling offshore wind development rights in waters along the Carolinas, California and Oregon as well as the gulfs of Maine and Mexico, potentially leaving just the U.S. Arctic coast untouched by turbines. There may be as many as seven offshore wind sales by 2025.
Two small wind farms currently operate in waters off the U.S. East Coast, but the nation is still trying to catch up with China, Germany, the U.K. and other countries in generating power from the strong, steady gusts at sea. The Department of Interior has already approved offshore wind farms being pursued under existing leases by Orsted AS, Eversource Energy, Avangrid Inc. and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.