Image Credit: Star of the South, Image used for illustrative purpose only.
3 minutes read

Australia moves forward on offshore wind with feasibility licenses

Six projects off country’s southeast coast reach next stage of development.

SYDNEY — Australia has moved a step closer to its ambition of establishing an offshore wind industry after six potential wind farm projects received the green light to begin assessing their feasibility.

Australian Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen and his counterpart from the state of Victoria, Lily D’Ambrosio, announced on Wednesday that six feasibility licenses had been granted or offered for proposed wind farms off the country’s southeast coast in Gippsland.

Gippsland is one of three zones so far declared suitable for offshore wind off Australia’s coast, with another three being assessed.

“Granting feasibility licenses is the next step to helping deliver a new clean energy industry for Australia, as well as future-proof energy security and reliability for Victoria,” said Bowen.

The projects awarded feasibility licenses are High Sea Wind, Gippsland Skies, Blue Mackerel North, Kut-Wut Brataualung, Orsted Offshore Australia (Gippsland 01) and Star of the South Wind Farm.

The decision means developers behind the projects can start assessment work to determine feasibility, including environmental studies and management plans. If feasibility is proven, they can then apply for a commercial license to begin construction.

Star of the South, which includes plans for up to 150 turbines that would generate 2.2 gigawatts, is considered the most advanced. Its backers, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), on Wednesday unveiled a new company called Southerly Ten to oversee the project.

Map of the two proposed projects by Southerly Ten in the Gippsland Zone (Courtesy of Star of the South)   © Star of the South

The company is also behind the Kut-Wut Brataualung project, which it says it will also deliver 2.2 GW but is at an earlier stage of development.

In a statement, Southerly Ten said the projects would power more than 2.4 million homes and inject 14 billion Australian dollars ($9 billion) into the economy.

“These licenses signal that Australia is open for business and open to the economic opportunities offshore wind can provide for our regional communities,” said Southerly Ten Chief Executive Charles Rattray, who has been leading work on Star of the South.

“Star of the South is already well progressed. We’ve studied this area for five years under an exploration license and know it’s in a location with strong winds, ideal sea depths and suitable seabed conditions.”

Southerly Ten is also pursuing a feasibility license in the Hunter zone off the New South Wales coast for its Destiny Wind project and is also focused on New Zealand.

The announcement on Wednesday noted the government intends to grant feasibility licenses to a further six projects proposed for the Gippsland zone, subject to consultation with First Nations groups. The zone, which compasses 15,000 sq. km, was the first to be declared suitable for offshore wind in 2022. It has the potential to generate up to 25 megawatts of electricity and provide thousands of jobs, the ministers said in their statement.

Turbines off Australia’s coasts have the potential to generate 5,000 GW, 100 times the installed capacity of Australia’s two largest electricity networks, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.

The country is working to move away from coal power and reach set targets of having 82% of its electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030.

However, the transition faces challenges with the rollout of the required infrastructure due to tensions over the effects on communities and the environment. A plan by Victoria to use a state government-owned port to assemble offshore turbines was blocked earlier this year because of its potential to damage local wetlands.

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