The federal government is expanding its offshore wind energy program to New York, the Department of Interior announced Thursday.

More than 81,000 acres of the Atlantic Ocean off the New York coast will be available for wind energy leases, the department announced Thursday.

The section of ocean is in the New York Wind Energy Area, a portion of the outer continental shelf 11 miles south of Long Island. The department will publish a sales notice in the Federal Register on Monday, opening a 60-day public comment period.

"These are significant steps for our federal offshore renewable energy program," said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

The leasing sale of the 81,130 acres of ocean will be done online and go to the highest bidder.

Four public meetings have been scheduled in June in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island. In addition, a public seminar will be held in New York City in late June or early July.

Jewell said the New York Power Authority estimates the area could provide 700 megawatts of energy, enough to power 245,000 homes. However, those estimates are from years ago before advancements in the wind energy field, she said.

"We think those numbers are conservative," Jewell said. "We believe it could be materially more than that just based on where technology has gone in the last few years."

Seven companies have qualified to participate in the auction and more companies could be added. The end of the 60-day public comment period is also the cutoff date for any companies that want to bid.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has awarded 11 commercial offshore wind leases to date, nine of which came through a competitive lease sale process. New York would become the 11th state that is either interested in or participating in an offshore wind energy-leasing project.

"I am thrilled to witness this important step in the state's energy transformation," said Janice Schneider, Interior's assistant secretary for land and minerals management and a native New Yorker.