The biggest U.S. offshore wind energy lease sale ever will continue Friday, after two days of steadily escalating bids that topped at $3.3 billion with no clear winners at 6 p.m. Thursday.

After 46 rounds of bidding that began at 9 a.m. Feb. 23, the most-sought of six lease tracts – dubbed OCS-0539, east-southeast of Barnegat Light, N.J. – attracted up to five bidders at a time who pushed offers to $900 million.

After running the bids at 20-minute intervals, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management officials said they will resume at 9 a.m. Friday. The agency will announce provisional winners of the online auction.

Covering 488,201 acres, the sale is the largest of the Biden administration and the first wind auction since 2018. Farther east from areas already leased to developers off New Jersey, the new leases roughly double the New York Bight acreage available for building wind turbine arrays.

BOEM officials say they learned from experience with conflict with the fishing industry during planning for Vineyard Wind and other southern New England projects and adjusted lease boundaries to reduce conflicts with the scallop fleet.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management officials say they outlined New York Bight wind energy lease areas to reduce conflicts with the scallop industry. BOEM/New England Fishery Management Council graphic.

New Jersey environmental groups that are heavily committed to developing renewable energy expressed enthusiasm over the auction. "We applaud efforts that affirm our state's commitment to fight climate change while protecting our precious natural resources by moving to renewable energy sources like offshore wind,” said Eric Stiles, president and CEO of New Jersey Audubon, in a joint statement issued with other groups Thursday. “Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels will help mitigate negative impacts due to climate change and will benefit wildlife populations throughout the coast.”

“Pollution free energy from offshore wind offers us a solution that can help to slow down some of the most serious issues facing all fishermen,” said Paul Eidman of Anglers for Offshore Wind Power, a recreational group that has promoted offshore turbines as benefiting clean energy and providing bottom habitat for species like black sea bass. “Offshore wind power could enhance and bring new life to our coastal ecosystems and economy if we just give it a chance.”

While many environmental groups are onboard with offshore wind power to reduce carbon emissions, some ocean-focused activists are still skeptical.

“The ocean is far more valuable as an ecosystem, so we must minimize industrialization and be sure it is protective of marine life,” said Cindy Zipf, the executive director of Clean Ocean Action, a New Jersey-based group that successfully fought pollution and ocean dumping out of New York Harbor.

The group says it “supports responsible and reasonable offshore wind energy, but this is a reckless privatization, and will not ensure protection of marine life including whales, dolphins, turtles and the hundreds of other species that call the ocean home.

“While BOEM will still need to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement after the leases have been awarded to analyze the specific environmental consequences of any proposed project, we should learn from the existing leases (off New Jersey) encompassing 425,000 acres that are already in the works before selling-off another nearly 500,000 acres of public ocean lands and waters.”

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Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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