The burgeoning offshore wind industry is waiting on a declaration from the federal government to begin key works on the water.
- The renewable energy industry is waiting for the federal government to designate Gippsland as an offshore wind development zone
- There are five wind farm projects planning to build turbines off the coast of Gippsland
- The CSIRO says prices to build offshore wind farms have failed significantly, making them a viable option
There are five offshore wind farms planned off the Gippsland coast, with hopes to tap into the existing transmission infrastructure of the Latrobe Valley.
Under new legislation governing offshore wind farms passed by Parliament last year, operators are only allowed to undertake particular activities in zones designated for offshore wind development.
The most progressed project, Star of the South, plans to erect up to 200 turbines in the windy Gippsland waters.
Acting chief executive Erin Coldham said making the declaration would end the uncertainty facing the industry.
“We look forward to the declaration process starting. The end result would provide certainty for offshore wind projects in the region, like ours, which are standing ready and keen to progress,” she said.
“In the meantime, we’re getting on with our environmental assessments, onshore studies and ongoing community consultation to keep things moving.”
Country manager for company BlueFloat Energy Nick Sankey echoed the sentiment.
“We are moving forward with our project development as much as we can, but until we have a feasibility license we are not able to deploy certain monitoring equipment and undertake a lot of studies in our site area that we would like to do,” he said.
General manager of development at Wellington Shire Brent McAlister has previously told the ABC there was a significant impetus for making the declaration quickly.
“It’s critical because there is a competition in the world for investment dollars and capital in offshore wind,” he said.
“But the money will go to those countries that have regulatory and licensing regimes in place so it’s crucial to attract investment.”
Meanwhile, the Victorian government has set a target of 4 gigawatts (GW) of generation by 2035 and 9GW by 2040.
To that end, the state government has funded four companies for scoping works: $19.5 million for Star of the South, $16.1 million for Corio and $2.3 million for Flotation Energy.
ABC Gippsland has lodged five requests to discuss offshore wind with federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen since his re-election.
Renewables remain cheapest option
A recent report by Australia’s key scientific research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), has reaffirmed that renewables remain the cheapest new-build option for energy.
CSIRO chief energy economist Paul Graham said that costs for offshore energy have fallen.
“We saw some significant cost reductions in offshore wind, mainly driven by developments overseas, where there is a lot more offshore wind being developed — so offshore wind could have a role in Australia,” he said.
He said Gippsland’s transmission infrastructure would need an update and extension.
“The existing transmission system was really designed to connect up our fossil resources,” he said.
“We need to build about 10,000 kilometers of new transmission lines over the next decade.”