Federal government declares Australia’s first six offshore wind energy areas
The federal government has declared Australia’s first offshore wind zone, giving developers the green light to fast-track planning and consultation for wind farm projects.
- Federal Energy Minister says Gippsland coast is Australia’s first offshore wind farm
- Offshore wind projects aim to fill future void left by coal-fired power plant closures in Latrobe Valley
- A 60-day consultation period with community members will now begin
Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen has announced that the waters off the coast of Gippsland in southeast Victoria will be the first offshore wind farm.
Other areas will follow off the Hunter Valley and Illawarra in New South Wales, Portland in Victoria, northern Tasmania, Perth and Bunbury in Western Australia.
Last week, developers said ABC projects were being blocked by the federal government dragging its feet on the impending declaration, allowing them to consult and then apply for permits.
Mr Bowen said other countries had been successfully generating power from ocean wind farms for years and it was time for Australia to catch up.
“We have some of the best wind resources in the world,” Bowen said.
“A single rotation of an offshore wind turbine provides as much energy as an average rooftop solar installation generates in a day.”
Climate energy market analyst Tim Buckley said the declaration was a step forward, but all levels of government should work together.
“Energy Minister Chris Bowen is right to open offshore wind to public consultation,” Buckley said.
“The development of offshore wind is going to require a high degree of political support and long-term planning due to the complex supply chains that would need to be developed in Australia and higher construction costs.
“We need to weigh the additional costs of building offshore wind turbines and see where it makes the most economic sense.
“We need to value the balancing or base load nature of generation, to support the sometimes intermittent nature of onshore wind and solar.”
Gippsland switches from coal to wind
Mr Bowen said the Star of the South proposal off the Victorian coast in Bass Strait would generate enough electricity to meet 20% of Victoria’s energy needs.
Star of the South is a Danish company and was the first offshore wind farm project, presented four years ago.
The company plans to build up to 200 wind turbines, the closest being located 7 kilometers from the coast.
Star of the South chief executive Erin Coldham said the company hopes to start power generation before the Yallourn power station is due to close in 2028.
“There is a proud history here of producing electricity for over 100 years, so there is very good access to the grid which feeds the rest of the east coast, the sea depths are perfect and there are really unique wind conditions,” Ms Coldham said.
The company aims to start construction in 2025 and says the project would create 2,000 construction jobs and 200 ongoing operational positions.
Consultation starts now
Bowen’s announcement marks the start of a 60-day consultation period with communities and water users in the proposed areas.
The Federal Ministry for Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water will facilitate the consultation process.
The transmission lines, which are expected to be above ground, will run from the wind farm area to the Latrobe Valley Energy Grid, which currently sends electricity generated by the Yallourn and Loy Yang power stations.
“It is important that issues surrounding transmission lines crossing private property to connect large-scale renewable energy projects to the national grid are handled with sensitivity and transparency,” said Gippsland Federal Nationals member Darren Chester.