WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Two energy companies won the rights to advance wind energy off New Jersey's coast, where the potential exists to power 1.2 million homes, the government said.
RES America Development and U.S. Wind Inc. bid more than $1.8 million collectively for the rights to consider the potential to develop wind energy in the federal waters off the coast of New Jersey.
"We are optimistic about the promise of a strong renewable energy future offshore New Jersey, as well as for the entire nation," Abigail Ross Hopper, director of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said in a statement.
The estimated 344,000 acres off the New Jersey coast has, by the federal government's estimate, the potential to generate enough wind energy to power 1.2 million average households.
BOEM in December started a review of Virginia's plans for offshore wind installations with an assessment of the potential impact of a planned 12 megawatt project backed by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. Described as a research project, BOEM said the two wind turbine generators planned by Virginia would set the course for a future offshore wind industry in the state.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the successful auction marks a major step forward in advancing a commercial wind energy sector in federal U.S. waters.
There are no commercial offshore wind projects in service in U.S. territorial waters. Opponents of offshore wind energy argue it would pose a threat to migratory bird species and the marine ecosystem.
"Through extensive outreach and public engagement, we reduced potential use conflicts while moving the country closer to harnessing the enormous potential of wind energy along the Atlantic coast," Jewell said.
There was no public information on when construction could begin off the New Jersey coast. Construction for what's expected to be the first commercial offshore wind farm in the United States, Block Island, began off the Rhode Island coast during the summer.