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Biden moves one step closer to making giant Pacific Ocean wind turbines a reality

(CNN) The Department of Interior on Tuesday announced it will hold a lease sale for wind energy off the coast of Central and Northern California, bringing the Biden administration's dream of a massive West Coast wind farm one step closer to reality.

The Pacific has enormous potential to generate wind energy, Biden administration officials told reporters in a call last month, and this yet-untapped potential is a major part of President Joe Biden's clean energy goals. Floating offshore wind turbines could unlock up to 2.8 terawatts of clean energy in the future -- more than double the country's current electricity demand, US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm estimated during the September call.

The department will open five lease areas for companies to bid on near Morro Bay and Humboldt County on December 6. The space that will be offered is more than 373,000 acres, which Interior said could produce over 4.5 gigawatts of energy when fully developed -- enough to power more than 1.5 million homes.

"Today, we are taking another step toward unlocking the immense offshore wind energy potential off our nation's west coast," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement Tuesday.

The lease sale will be closely watched not only for its energy potential but also for its revenue; a similar lease sale off the coast of New York and New Jersey in February grossed $4.37 billion, setting a record for the highest ever offshore energy lease sale, both for wind and oil and gas.

Some technological challenges still lie ahead. Because the Pacific Ocean floor is deeper than the Atlantic, administration officials and stakeholders have said they are working on new technology to tether floating turbines to the sea floor. Floating platforms will allow turbines to be installed farther from the coast.

Other future floating offshore wind developments and lease sales are being planned off the coasts of Oregon and the Gulf of Maine, though the dates of those lease sales have not been set.