A proposal for Australia’s first offshore wind farm in Victoria’s east will proceed to the exploration stage after it was granted a licence from the Federal Government.
Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor announced he had granted the exploration licence to Offshore Energy for its Star of the South project.
If it proceeds, the Star of the South would be the first of its kind in Australia and generate 2,000 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 1.2 million homes.
It would be located south of the town of Port Albert off the Gippsland coast in Victoria’s east.
The licence gives the company permission to assess wind resources and sea-bed conditions off the Gippsland coast to see if the project is technically feasible.
Offshore Energy chief executive Andy Evans said he was pleased by the government’s announcement and the company would consult local communities before it began exploration.
“From here we start commencing detailed studies to understand the marine environment in a little bit more detail,” Mr Evans said.
“So, we’ll be looking at undertaking wind studies and sea-bed studies, hopefully commencing before the end of this year.”
In February, Senate Estimates heard the project had been delayed while the Department of Environment and Energy developed a licensing arrangement.
The department’s deputy secretary, Jo Evans, said the project was delayed while a “bespoke” arrangement was developed.
“We’ve been working through the various regulatory issues and requirements necessary for doing a bespoke arrangement,” Ms Evans told Senate Estimates.
But Mr Evans said the government had been “inquisitive” about the project because it is the first of its type.
He said his company had picked Gippsland because of the strength of its offshore wind and its proximity to the transmission infrastructure in the Latrobe Valley, which produces Victoria’s coal-fired power.
“The most exciting thing about the project is certainly the wind profile and particularly the utilisation of local communities and experience [of] over 50 years with offshore oil and gas and 100 years of local power generation,” Mr Evans said.
“Gippsland-Latrobe Valley is in a really unique position to really bring forward a project of this size.”
Hazelwood wind farm
The granting of a licence to Star of the South comes a day after another company announced plans for a wind project in Gippsland.
OSMI Australia wants to a build 53-turbine wind farm in pine plantations near the former Hazelwood power station, which closed in March 2017.
The 300-megawatt Delburn wind farm is expected to cost between $400-$500 million with construction set to begin in 2022 if it’s approved.
Like the Star of the South, OSMI director Peter Marriott said his project picked its location because of the Latrobe Valley’s transmission infrastructure.
“There’s a lot of transmission infrastructure and with the closure of Hazelwood that’s opened up a lot of spare capacity in that network that’s already been built,” Mr Marriott said.
“So we’re looking to connect this project into an existing 220KV line that sits in the north of the project site and it’s on the project, which allows us to connect to the power infrastructure already without building any new power lines. So all the power cables associated with this project would be underground.”
New opportunity for Latrobe Valley
The Star of the South and Delburn wind farms have received support from Victoria’s environmental groups.
Pat Simons from Friends of the Earth said the two projects could allow the Latrobe Valley to become a hub for the Victorian wind industry.
“Particularly with off-shore wind, we haven’t had an off-shore wind sector in Australia,” Mr Simons said.
“If Latrobe Valley can take advantage of this it really could become the centre of this industry in Australia and actually lead the way and show other people in other towns around the country how this new sector can be built.”
The Latrobe Valley has struggled to recover from the privatisation of the coal-fired power industry in the 1990s when thousands lost their jobs.
Mr Simons said these projects were “win-win” because they delivered action on climate change and created new jobs in a region that had undergone economic transformation.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding