Australia Identifies First Priority Offshore Wind Area

The Australian government has identified the Bass Strait off Gippsland as Australia’s first priority area to be assessed for suitability for offshore wind developments.

This area has comparatively favourable wind conditions, investor interest, indications of support from the State Government, and has identified grid connection plans, the government said.

According to Assistant Minister to the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Tim Wilson, the government is implementing Australia’s first Offshore Electricity Infrastructure framework to enable a new industry to emerge and to secure affordable energy, jobs and investment as part of building Australia’s clean industrial future.

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”The Morrison Government is backing the creation of an Australian offshore wind industry by identifying priority areas for assessment,” Wilson said.

”We’re pressing down on the accelerator and delivering a pathway to decarbonisation. An offshore electricity industry could create thousands of new jobs and drive the economic growth of our regional and coastal economies.”

Bass Strait is home to Australia’s most advanced offshore wind project – the 2 GW Star of the South. The project has the potential to supply power to 1.2 million homes and deliver up to 20 per cent of Victoria’s electricity needs.

Star of the South is expected to create around 2,000 direct jobs in Victoria over its lifetime, including 760 Gippsland jobs during construction and 200 ongoing local jobs once it’s up and running. The project would invest around AUD 8.7 billion (EUR 6 billion) in Victoria, including injecting an estimated AUD 6.4 billion directly into Gippsland’s economy, the government said.

Anticipating operating off the coast of south-east Gippsland by the end of the decade, Star of the South believes Gippsland is best placed to become the home of Australia’s offshore wind industry, with the decision giving confidence to developers, investors, and suppliers.

”We are pleased to see Bass Strait off Gippsland formally recognised as the first priority area for offshore wind assessment. We know the wind conditions are perfect, with many opportunities for investment in the region,” Star of the South Acting Chief Executive Officer, Erin Coldham, said.

Next Steps

The announced area is said to represent the start of this process which will kickstart further assessment, including consultation with local communities and existing maritime users, the government said.

The government said it will evaluate and announce further areas for development as they are identified and prioritised, once the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021 commences in June. Ensuring local communities can have their say is a critical part of this process, with a minimum 60-day public consultation period required.

”There’s still a long way to go, but it’s a positive move and good news for Gippslanders, who have been advocating for this outcome. We encourage all community members to have their say during the required 60-day public consultation process to ensure projects are developed with local input in mind,” Coldham said.

Assessments will focus on the impact of offshore renewable energy infrastructure activities on the area, with particular focus on the environment including marine life and migratory birds, fishing, shipping, other marine uses, and local communities.

The Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act provides a framework for granting licences to undertake offshore electricity infrastructure activities in Commonwealth offshore areas. The draft regulations set out operational arrangements, including the licencing scheme, fees, and levies.

The consultation period on the regulations is open until 22 April 2022 and provides a mechanism for investors and stakeholders to provide feedback.

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Photo: Image for illustrative purposes only. Source: Vattenfall