Australian Economy

Australian wind market takes off again as projects and turbines get bigger

Bango wind farm near Yass in New South Wales (CWP Renewables).

Australia’s wind energy industry is enjoying its strongest ever start to a calendar year with a record amount of capacity beginning construction so far in 2022. But it’s not the number of projects that has jumped, it’s the size.

The start of construction at Australia’s first gigawatt scale wind complex, the 1.026GW MacIntyre wind project in Queensland, announced last week by majority owner Acciona, takes the total amount of construction starts in 2022 to more than 2GW.

This is the first time that wind energy construction starts have topped 2GW in a single year since 2018, and will likely jump further before the year is out, making it easily the best year on record.

As David Dixon, from Rystad Energy, also notes, the new construction starts involve just five assets.

wind construction
Source: Rystad Energy. Please click to expand.

These including Iberdrola Australia‘s Flyers Creek in NSW (145MW), Octopus Investments Dulacca wind farm in Queensland (180MW), Neoen’s Goyder South stage 1 wind farm (400MW), and Squadron Energy‘s Clarke Creek Phase 1 (450 MW), also in Queensland.

And there will likely be more this year, with Hawkesdale, Ryan’s Corner and Berrybank 2 likely to also start construction this year.

MacIntyre is the first project to commit to building 1GW or more, and is double the size of the previous biggest (the 530MW Stockland Hill project in Victoria), but it certainly won’t be the last.

Clarke’s Creek is likely to be at least 1GW, particularly if Andrew Forrest’s green hydrogen plans take shape, and Goyder South’s wind component could grow to at least 1.2GW. Iberdrola recently bought the rights to a 1GW wind project in north Queensland, Mt James.

Victoria intends to have the first of a number of offshore wind farms producing power by the end of the decade, and these projects will likely all be sized at 1GW or more, with Star of the South leading the pack at 2GW. NSW is also host to a number of offshore wind potentials.

And, of course, there are even bigger wind plans in the massive off-grid locations in the Pilbara and north of Esperance in Western Australia, where the likes of Intercontinental, CWP Global, Vestas and Macquarie are looking at projects in the tens of gigawatts.

The Australian Renewable Energy Hub is likely to host at least 16GW of wind capacity out of the 26GW of wind and solar, while the Western Green Energy Hub could host 30GW or more wind capacity as part of its planned 50GW green hydrogen project.

Multiple other green hydrogen projects with gigawatt scale wind components are also on the drawing boards, including Forrest’s 2GW of wind as part of Fortescue’s 5.4GW Uaroo renewables hub, also in the Pilbara.

Of course, as the projects get bigger, then so do the turbines themselves.

The latest turbines announced by Acciona and Ark Energy (a 30 per cent holder in the MacIntyre project), will see 177 Nordex turbines with a capacity rating of 5.7MW each.

This just beats out the 5.6MW turbines being installed by Neoen at the 157MW Kaban wind project in north Queensland, which began construction last year.

Both are going to be pipped by the 6MW Vestas turbines to be installed at Tilt Renewable’s Rye Park project in NSW, which began construction last year.

These turbines will likely stand with a hub height of around 160m and tip heights of around 220m. By comparison, the Starfish Hill wind farm, the first commercial scale project in South Australia, featured 1.5MW turbines with a hub height of 68 metres each and a ground to blade tip height of 100 metres.

The capacity of the individual wind turbines will likely be doubled again, however, when the first offshore wind projects in Australia begin construction in a few years time.

Offshore wind projects in Europe are already installing turbines of around 14MW capacity each, and it’s growing each year. Many project proponents expect 15MW turbines or even bigger to be deployed in Australian waters.

See also RenewEconomy’s Large Scale Wind Farm Map of Australia

And it’s Offshore Wind Farm Map of Australia

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