Oceanic wind farms on the horizon for Australia | The Murray Valley Standard
Global investments in offshore wind farms are booming as countries seek to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. This week Australia officially joined the party.
Renewable energy advocates are celebrating the passing of crucial laws that will govern the installation of massive turbines offshore for years to come.
They say a new offshore wind industry will help Australia get rid of fossil fuels sooner while creating clean, green jobs in areas that have historically relied on coal and gas.
The promoters of the project are also celebrating.
They now have a framework for the infrastructure they want to build and have expressed a new level of confidence in the pursuit of an industry that has fueled Europe for years.
So what will a new offshore wind industry mean for Australia? Where are plants likely to grow? What will they look like? And what is on offer in terms of electricity supply, new jobs and climate action?
To date, there are around a dozen proposals for offshore wind farms on the drawing board.
Most will take a coastal path just north of Sydney, past Melbourne, and head towards Adelaide. There is also one planned for northern Tasmania and three proposed for Western Australia, one near Geraldton and two near Bunbury.
But only one – the Star of the South project off Gippsland in Victoria – is well advanced.
It has been in development since 2012 and is now majority owned by Danish fund management company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, a long-standing player in the offshore wind industry in Europe.
The fund manager is also developing the first commercial-scale offshore wind power project in the United States, just south of Martha’s Vineyard, the island of Massachusetts that has long been a playground for the rich and famous.
It is one of many farms soon to be established off the coast of the United States after President Joe Biden announced a target of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.
That’s enough to power 10 million homes and it’s part of his plan to tackle climate change by increasing renewable energy sources.
The Star of the South project off Victoria promises to do its part to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
It is expected to generate enough wind power to power about 1.2 Australian homes and save an average of 2.6 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year – the equivalent of taking a million cars off the road.
He will see as many as 200 huge turbine towers sunk into the seabed for about 500 square kilometers off Port Albert, Mcloughlins Beach and Woodside Beach. Some might be just 7 km from the shore, others 25 km.
Offshore wind power will then flow through submarine and underground lines to the Latrobe Valley, which has long provided Victoria with coal-fired electricity and has the connection points to supply wind power to the national grid. .
There is no doubt that offshore turbines will be very visible.
Depending on their size, the structures could reach 350 meters above the ocean’s surface. For perspective, Melbourne’s tallest skyscraper – the 92-story Eureka Tower – measures 297 meters.
But supporters say Australians should consider the greater good of offshore wind while noting that there is nothing attractive about coal-fired power plants throwing emissions.
“It’s that golden ticket to places like Latrobe Valley and Hunter Valley in New South Wales, which depended on coal and gas jobs,” climate activist PJ Jacobs said. at the Australian Conservation Foundation.
And that’s because they already have sophisticated transmission infrastructure and highly skilled workers that will be essential for new clean energy projects.
“Not only will offshore wind power boost renewable energy and reduce emissions, it will create thousands of regional jobs in the communities most threatened by the energy transition.”
Andrew Bray is the national director of the RE-Alliance, a community group that represents landowners, farmers, small businesses and environmentalists pushing for a swift switch to renewable energy.
He agrees that it is a no-brainer to build offshore wind farms near the country’s coal hubs, as their power plants are on borrowed time and their workers need new jobs.
“It could have happened sooner,” he says of the new legislation for offshore farms. “There were certainly people who asked for it much earlier.”
He sees offshore wind as “a fantastic addition” to Australia’s renewable energy mix, which will help equalize what is produced by onshore farms which are more sensitive to fluctuations in wind.
Regarding visual impacts, Mr Bray says there is a “certain fatality” in Australia getting its energy from wind and sun, and people are going to have to get used to seeing the infrastructure. that allows that to happen.
Casper Frost Thorhauge is the CEO of the Star of the South project and a veteran of the offshore wind industry, having contributed to projects in Europe and Asia.
He is candid about the visual impact of up to 200 towering turbine towers appearing in the seascape off Gippsland.
âWhen you are at the beach you will be able to see the turbines. It is a common occurrence and people have found it acceptable in other countries,â he says.
But he says the company is going through an extensive community engagement process “to determine how people would like the wind farm to be designed and built.”
Work is also advancing on pre-construction studies, including seabed assessments, wind and wave monitoring, and a series of ecological studies examining impacts on marine life and birds.
Detailed environmental impact assessments will need to get government backing before Start of the South has the right to move forward. The project will also depend on a final investment decision from its donors scheduled for 2025.
Once that happens, it will take about two years for the first turbines to generate electricity.
Over its 30-year lifespan, the project is expected to create around 3,000 direct jobs. In coal-dependent Gippsland, estimates are around 760 jobs during construction and 200 operational positions underway.
âThis is an opportunity for places like Gippsland to continue a proud history of power generation,â said Mr. Frost Thorhauge.
But not everyone is convinced by the idea of ââinstalling banks of gigantic turbines along the coast.
Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis says countries that invest heavily in offshore wind like Japan and Korea don’t have what Australia has.
âWe are fortunate to have significant wind and solar resources on land,â he says.
âI am a strong advocate of onshore wind because at the end of the day the consumer has to foot the billâ¦ offshore wind is much more expensive.
âThere is clearly an investor interest and appetite, but I wonder how many of these projects would work without a massive government grant. “
Associated Australian Press