U.S. offshore wind lease bids at $285 million, will continue on Friday

Source: By Nichola Groom, Reuters • Posted: Friday, December 14, 2018

(Reuters) – A U.S. government auction for three wind leases off the coast of Massachusetts was on track to blow through a previous sale record on Thursday, with bids standing at combined $285 million after 24 rounds.

The bidding, which took place over nine hours on Thursday, will continue on Friday morning, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said.

The highly competitive lease sale will give the winner or winners the right to develop nearly 390,000 acres, divided into three leases near the Massachusetts islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket and Rhode Island’s Block Island. The same areas failed to sell at a 2015 auction, underscoring the industry’s nascent view of the United States as the next major market for offshore wind.

The auction attracted 19 companies as potential bidders, including Avangrid Renewables, EDF Renewables Development and Norway’s Equinor, according to a government auction notice published in October. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which conducted the auction, said Thursday it would not disclose which companies were involved in the bidding until the sale’s completion.

The Trump administration is streamlining permitting and carving out new areas off the coast for leasing as part of its America First policy to boost domestic energy production and jobs. This effort dovetails with recent mandates in northeast states like New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York requiring utilities to procure energy from offshore wind.

That government support, combined with falling prices for the renewable energy source, has intensified interest from European developers with years of success building offshore wind farms in the North Sea. Denmark’s Orsted, the world’s largest offshore wind developer, announced in October that it would buy the top U.S. offshore wind player, Deepwater Wind LLC, for $510 million. Deepwater Wind was listed among the potential bidders in Thursday’s auction.

Bidding in an auction last year for nearly 80,000 acres off the coast of New York lasted 33 rounds with Norway’s Equinor, formerly known as Statoil, eventually winning the lease for a record $42.5 million. An individual lease had never before sold for more than $5 million, according to public records.

Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Cynthia Osterman