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The federal government has just held its first-ever auction selling the right to build offshore wind farms. A Rhode Island Company is the provisional winner.

As NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports, the auction shows that despite all the setbacks, the offshore wind industry might yet take off.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN, BYLINE: On the 11th round of bidding, a company called Deepwater Wind offered nearly $4 million for two parcels off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Jeff Grybowski is CEO of Deepwater Wind.

JEFF GRYBOWSKI: This is, in our estimation, the single best offshore wind resource in the United States. The energy potential there is huge.

SHOGREN: Tommy Beaudreau heads the agency that held the auction. He says the robust bidding shows offshore wind farms are on the way.

TOMMY BEAUDREAU: This sale marks a really historic moment in the clean energy future of this country.

SHOGREN: The United States doesn't have any offshore wind farms. Most efforts to build one have met one obstacle after another. Still, Todd Griset, an attorney who advises clients on ocean energy projects, is optimistic.

TODD GRISET: The resource is too big to be ignored for very much longer.

SHOGREN: Deepwater Wind will have four years to design a project and study its environmental effects. Another auction is scheduled for September, for a wind project off the coast of Virginia. More auctions are in the works for patches of ocean off of Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, Washington.

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