The federal government has introduced legislation to Parliament that would pave the way for Australia’s first offshore wind farm to proceed.
The 2.2-gigawatt Star of the South wind farm is planned for a 496-square-kilometre area off the Gippsland coast in Victoria’s south-east.
It would have the potential to supply up to 20 per cent of the state’s energy – or 1.2 million homes.
The Offshore Energy Infrastructure Bill will create a regulatory framework for the construction, operation and maintenance of electricity infrastructure in Australia’s territorial waters.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the legislation would accelerate planned projects, including the Star of the South and the Marinus Link interconnector between Victoria and Tasmania.
He said the two projects as well as the Sun Cable solar proposal that would transmit clean energy to Singapore were collectively worth $10 billion and expected to create 10,000 jobs.
“An offshore electricity industry in Australia will further strengthen our economy, create jobs and opportunities for Australians, and enhance the delivery of affordable and reliable power,” Mr Taylor said.
‘Gives us certainty’
The Star of the South’s location was chosen because of its strong winds and proximity to the existing transmission infrastructure of the Latrobe Valley’s coal-fired power stations.
The project has received an exploration licence and its proponents are conducting environmental assessments which will be published in 2023.
If it proceeds, construction is planned for the middle of the decade and the wind farm to be operational in the early 2030s.
Star of the South chief development officer Erin Coldham said the legislation was important for offshore wind projects across Australia.
“It just gives us some certainty around how we go about applying for those long-term licences, and how we can actually build and operate the offshore wind farm considering the other existing users out in the sea,” she said.
“We’ve seen more than 10 proposals around Australia for offshore wind, given that offshore wind is stronger, more consistent and can be built close to existing grid infrastructure.”
Push for more ambitious approach
Environment group Friends of the Earth (FoE) said the legislation was a good first step but more needed to be done to grow the offshore wind sector.
“In the US and the UK, they’re setting ambitious climate and energy targets to develop the industry, and Australia really should be doing the same,” spokesman Pat Simons said.
With many of Victoria’s renewable energy projects based in the state’s east, FoE said offshore wind projects like the Star of the South had a key role to play in the shift away from fossil fuels.
“Offshore wind projects are able to access higher and more stable wind speeds, so generally they produce renewable energy in a more stable, ongoing way,” Mr Simons said.
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