In the race to replace fossil-fueled energy in Australia, late last year Gippsland became the country’s first designated offshore wind location. There are five development licences available and an estimated 9GW of generation potential, and there is already plenty of competition for developers who want to sell it to us.
The most advanced project in the Gippsland zone is the so-called Star of the South project. It aims for 2.2GW of power, roughly the size of a large coal-fired power station and representing about a fifth of Victoria’s current energy needs.
The next most advanced is a 1.5GW project led by Japan’s Flotation Energy called Seadragon. Despite the name, the project’s turbines will be fixed to the ocean floor.
The relatively shallow sea floor even 100km off the Victoria coast makes the region especially suitable for offshore wind. The slated projects would make use of the high-capacity grid connections in the La Trobe Valley coal region.
Star of the South is aiming to be in operation in 2028. Seadragon will hopefully follow in 2030.
A sad product of Australia’s decades of delay in embracing renewables is that foreign companies are now best placed to develop these resources. In the case of Gippsland, the likely major players include Shell, Denmark’s Oersted, Franco-Spanish Ocean Winds, Spain’s Iberdrola and EDP Renewables, and Norway’s Equinor.
A further issue is the skills shortage prompted by the sudden push to advance these projects. Marine engineers are particularly in demand, and companies are partnering with Australian universities to advance the necessary degree programs.
“In essence offshore wind is a marine logistics project,” Flotation Energy Australia director told RenewEconomy. “You can’t put these component on land. You can’t transport a 140 metre turbine blade along a road.”
Further offshore wind zones are anticipated near Warrnambool, Bunbury, Newcastle and the Illawarra.
This follows NSW’s designation of renewable energy zones – “modern day power stations” – in the central west near Dubbo, the south-west near Griffith, and New England.
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