The Energy minister, Chris Bowen, has outlined proposals for six offshore wind projects around the country, including a 200-turbine windfarm off the Gippsland coast, claiming the industry could support up to 8,000 jobs and help shore up the nation’s energy security.
“We have some of the best wind resources in the world – just one rotation of one offshore wind turbine provides as much energy as an average rooftop solar installation generates in one day,” Bowen said.
A day after the government’s 43% emissions reduction bill passed the House of Representatives, Bowen laid out plans to harness what he called “world-class offshore wind energy potential”.
It included a project off the Gippsland coast in Victoria, with possible locations off Inverloch and Woodside beach. A 60-day public consultation period opened on Friday.
Five other proposals include developments off the Hunter and Illawarra coasts in New South Wales, near Portland in Western Victoria, in Bass Strait north of Tasmania, and in the Indian Ocean off Perth and Bunbury. Consultation periods for those proposals are yet to be announced.
Bowen said the sites were chosen because of “good to excellent” wind resources, existing energy generation facilities, connections to transmission networks, and locations near ports or industrial hubs.
The windfarms would be built in Commonwealth waters, starting 5.5km from shore, and feature up to 200 turbines.
Australia currently had no offshore wind generation, which has previously been considered too expensive and difficult to build compared to onshore wind or solar. In September, the Morrison government introduced legislation to establish a framework for the construction and operation of offshore power generation, including wind.
The director of climate change and energy at Ai Group, Tennant Reid, said offshore wind had “enormous” energy potential, utilizing the more consistently strong winds off the coast.
The Labor government plans to generate 82% of Australia’s energy from renewable sources by 2030. Bowen said Australia was “way behind the rest of the world” in generating wind power.
The Nationals MP for Gippsland, Darren Chester, said his electorate had “abundant” wind resources, and he expected the proposal to build a 200-turbine wind farm off the Gippsland coast would be warmly received by most constituents.
The turbines would be placed between 7km and 25km offshore and could meet up to 20% of Victoria’s electricity needs.
“Respectful community consultation and engagement is now critical to ensure the region understands the potential impacts and benefits of offshore wind projects,” Chester said.
“It’s important that issues surrounding transmission lines through private property to link large-scale renewable projects to the national grid are handled sensitively and transparently.”
Bowen said he expected there would be “very genuine concerns” raised by some locals and the fishing industry about the Gippsland project, dubbed the Star of the South, and that his department would listen.
“Around the world people have found a way for recreational and commercial fishing to work together with offshore wind,” he said.
The Liberal MP for the northern Tasmania seat of Braddon, Gavin Pearce, said he welcomed a proposal to develop offshore wind power in the waters north of his electorate but wanted to see “affordable, reliable, practical” energy generation.
“All I hear from the government is about investment in intermittent renewable energy resources,” he said.
The chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, Kane Thornton, said offshore wind was “an enormous opportunity for Australia”.
Reed said there were still questions remaining around the dispatchability of offshore wind power, and the periods it would be available, but that it had the potential to add “tens of gigawatts” to Australia’s grid.
“Offshore wind increasingly looks like it will play a quite important role in the whole system,” he said.
“The challenge is to match what’s happened in Europe. It’s not just a matter of higher ambition [also depends] if we’ve got the skills, supply chains, regulatory approvals and supporting policies on demand in place.”