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Offshore Wind Gaining Speed

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Renewable energy developers are looking to Australia’s first offshore wind projects as the nation’s energy transition gathers pace.

While the Australian Energy Market Market Operator (AEMO) did not model the potential for offshore wine in its 2050 roadmap, released at the end of June, a developer group called the Clean Energy Investor Group (CEIF) says there is a “very significant pipeline already building around offshore wind”.

The group, which represents developers with interests in 49 Australian energy projects worth an estimated $9 billion, says that offshore wind has a strong social licence and is also a major employer, requiring a workforce similar to that of an offshore oil or gas platform.

The Victorian Government supports offshore wind, and has unveiled offshore wind targets with hopes to achieve 2GW of generation by 2030, 4 GW by 2035, 9 GW by 2040 and 13 GW by 2050.

“Huge appetite”

The CEIG’s chair and chief executive, Simon Corbell, welcomed the Government’s move, saying there is a “huge appetite” for offshore wind development in Australia and Government support could unlock investment “worth billions”.

“Major global and Australian investors have rapidly positioned to secure development sites in Victoria and other states,” Corbell said.

“Offshore wind development will also help the National Electricity Market achieve the step change scenario as outlined in the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) Integrated System Plan released earlier this year. The step change scenario is needed to realise a faster decarbonisation of the electricity supply sector consistent with Australia’s Paris Climate Agreement obligations.”

Corbell said that offshore wind delivers electricity generation which is highly complementary with onshore wind and solar generation, and at that wind speeds are higher offshore than onshore and can provide a more consistent wind resource at times when onshore generation is unavailable.

New projects

The most advanced offshore wind project is the proposed $8 billion Star of the South project off the coast of Gippsland in Victoria, a development which still needs Commonwealth approval. The project is forecast to supply up to 20% of Victoria’s power.

Also in Victoria and crossing over into South Australia, BlueFloat Energy and Energy Estate have combined in plans for a 1.2GHW offshore wind project near the city of Portland.

Offshore wind also received a boost in July when Germany’s WPD Group announced a 50/50 joint venture with the UK’s Australis Energy for three offshore wind projects totaling 1.4GW off the cost of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. When completed, these projects are expected to generate enough power for 930,000 Australian homes.

Australis Energy has worked on the first two phases of the projects, and under the new joint venture WPD’s local subsidiary, Australia Holding, will complete environmental studies, impact assessments, planning, permitting and licensing.

There is currently 2.5GW of onshore wind projects under construction in Australia, most of which are expected to be commissioned this year.

There is an additional 82GW of wind power projects under planning, of which 38GW is offshore.

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