Australia moots first offshore wind farm
Thursday, Jun 08, 2017
A three-year feasibility study is currently being conducted for a 2,000-MW offshore wind farm in Australian coastal waters – a first for a country which has so far concentrated on onshore development.

The project, which reports said could cost about A$8 billion (US$6 billion), is proposed for a notably windy area off southern Victoria State near Gippsland. It already has the backing of the state government.

The firm behind the proposal is backed by two industry managers already involved in Australia’s renewable energy industry. Andy Evans, who worked with Spain’s Acciona to build a 192-MW wind farm at Waubra in Victoria, and Terry Kallis, previously CEO with geothermal developer Petratherm, have established a new company called Offshore Energy and enlisted help from international engineering company WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff.

The proposed project is for 250 turbines over a 570 square-kilometre area in the Bass Strait which separates mainland Australia from Tasmania. According to Offshore Energy it could generate up to 18% of Victoria’s power demand and reduce the state’s CO2 emissions by around 10 million tonnes per year.

The offshore plan was unveiled at a state government fair to promote new energy technology. Victorian energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio told the fair that the company’s project could help push down energy prices and help achieve her government’s target to source 40% of state electricity demand from renewable energy by 2025.

"We are very confident that once they go through their feasibility study that there will be more than sufficient interest to invest significant dollars in our state and grow those fantastic jobs that will be a fantastic contribution to the Victorian economy,” she told assembled delegates.

Offshore has also signed a Memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Victoria and federal government to receive assistance for the project.

Tapping offshore wind is more costly than onshore plants but delivers more consistently reliable electricity, Evans told the Australia Financial Review. “Even on current cost, offshore wind provides a new and exciting option for Australia’s energy capacity and security,” he said. “We expect technology and installation costs to continue to come down.”

South Australia and Queensland states want at least 50% of their electricity generated from renewable resources by 2030, but the federal government has said this is putting too much reliance on variable power output, citing blackouts last year in South Australia after fossil fuel-fired thermal power plants (TPPs) were closed.

A report on the future of national energy security commissioned by the Council of Australian Governments is due to be published at the end of June.

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