Australia could soon see the development of its first-ever offshore wind projects, with the Albanese government preparing to declare Victoria’s Gippsland region as the first special zone for offshore projects.
The Coalition government announced in April that Gippsland would be prioritised for consideration as the first region deemed suitable under the new federal laws, which will consider the potential environmental impact and the ability of the region to support investment in new energy infrastructure.
“The federal government’s decision to declare Gippsland the first designated zone for offshore wind is a huge vote of confidence for the future of renewable energy in the region,” community campaigner for Friends of the Earth in Gippsland, Wendy Farmer, said.
The projects also have the backing of the Victorian state government, which has set a target for 9GW of offshore wind capacity by 2040 as part of a plan to replace the state’s ageing fleet of brown coal fired generators.
Friends of the Earth says the moves by both the federal and state governments could unlock a new industry, with Australia currently lacking any offshore wind projects despite access to high-quality sites.
“There are currently four offshore wind proposals off the Gippsland coast representing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in regional investment, opportunities that Gippsland has been calling for and waiting for,” Farmer said.
“On top of onshore wind and solar projects throughout Gippsland, and the solar panels people are putting on their own roofs and businesses, this is a huge amount of new power supply.”
The New South Wales government is also likely to look offshore for at least two of its Renewable Energy Zones, with offshore wind projects earmarked for both the Hunter and Illawarra zones.
A number of former oil and gas industry executives, including former Woodside CEO Peter Coleman, have also formed the new venture, Direct Infrastructure, with ambitions of developing a portfolio of up to 9GW of offshore wind projects, also eyeing the Gippsland region.
While offshore wind projects come with the added complications of constructing wind turbines in ocean environments, the ability to build bigger turbines that can access higher quality wind resources can make such projects an attractive investment.
See RenewEconomy’s Offshore Wind Farm Map of Australia
Michael Mazengarb is a Sydney-based reporter with RenewEconomy, writing on climate change, clean energy, electric vehicles and politics. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in climate and energy policy for more than a decade.