Feds auction 340,000 acres for offshore wind power

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Two energy firms will spend more than $1.8 million to potentially develop wind farms in federal waters off the coast of New Jersey, officials announced Monday. 

The companies — RES America Developments and U.S. Wind Inc.— won the rights in a lease auction on Monday. Combined, the firms bought up leases for nearly 344,000 acres of space, the Department of Interior announced.

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If the area is fully developed, the Department of Energy predicts it could provide enough electricity to power 1.2 million homes. 

In a statement, officials said the lease sale is designed to spur renewable energy development under President Obama’s climate agenda. Interior Secretary Sally JewellSally JewellAs climate crisis worsens, it's Interior Secretary Jewell who's being naïve Puerto Rico bill drops GOP’s wildlife refuge transfer Coal war intensifies with Obama review MORE called the sale a “major step in standing up a sustainable offshore wind program for Atlantic coast communities.”

“We are pleased to see continued commercial interest in the offshore wind industry, as demonstrated by today’s lease sale,” Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abigail Ross Hopper said in a statement. 

“With provisional winners for both lease areas, we are optimistic about the promise of a strong renewable energy future offshore New Jersey, as well as for the entire nation.”

Monday’s lease sale focused on a swath of area that starts 7 miles off the coast of New Jersey and extends about 21 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. 

It is the fifth time the federal government has auctioned offshore leases for renewable energy development. In total, it has granted a total of nine wind power leases.

Offshore wind energy development has been a priority for the Obama administration. Over the summer, a developer began construction on the country’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island.