The Victorian government has given $40 million in public funding to kick start three major offshore wind projects being developed in the state by Star of the South, Macquarie Group and Flotation Energy.
The Labor Andrews government said on Tuesday that the funding boost would support offshore wind feasibility studies and pre-construction development, including environmental assessments, and add to $96 million the companies were already investing in the projects.
The Star of the South – which is considered Australia’s most advanced offshore wind project – will receive $19.5 million to support pre-construction development activities off the Gippsland coast.
Owned by its Australian founders of the same name and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), the project proposes to build up to 2.2GW of capacity – enough to provide nearly 20 per cent of Victoria’s annual energy needs.
The project has already progressed through environmental assessments and mapped out a path for underground transmission to plug into the infrastructure in the Latrobe Valley.
Macquarie Group, meanwhile, will receive $16.1 million of the funding to put towards the initial development stages of a 1GW offshore wind farm it is proposing for off the Bass Coast.
It is a first for Macquarie in Australia, although the investment giant has supported over half of the 10.4GW of UK offshore wind capacity currently in operation.
The third project, by Scotland-based Flotation Energy, will get $2.3 million for scoping studies and surveys for a 1.5GW offshore wind farm off Ninety Mile beach in the state’s Gippsland region, possibly using floating wind turbines.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said the “wild winds” off Victoria’s coastline were among the best in the world and that harnessing them for energy generation would play a key role in the state’s economic development, its progress towards 50 per cent renewables, and its replacement of coal power.
“Having baseload power, …that sort of dispatchable power that we talk about ..that’s very, very important. But the notion that the only way you can do that is through coal and gas is simply simply wrong,” Andrews told a press conference on Tuesday morning.
“When you’re talking about the sort of quality of the resource offshore, you’re talking about those turbines operating and generating power, the likes, the yield per turbine is unheard of. And compared to anything on onshore, you’re talking about 97, 98, 99% of the time.
“So the gap, if you like, to firm that up is quite, it’s quite small. I’m not a I’m not an energy engineer. But I know [enough about] the strength of these sorts of proposals to know that they’re worth backing. …Early money is very important and strong policy settings are very important,” Andrews said.
Australia does, indeed, have excellent offshore wind resources, particularly in the southern half, and there are now more than 12 prospective projects identified by a range of ambitious developers. But until recently their progress was held back by a lag in federal legislation.
See RenewEconomy’s Offshore Wind Farm Map of Australia
After years of waiting, the federal government finally introduced Australia’s first offshore electricity legislation in parliament in September, to establish a regulatory framework for the offshore wind industry, paving the way for more the sector to kick off.
However, some have argued that the Morrison government’s legislation is not up to scratch yet and more work will need to be done.
The Clean Energy Council on Tuesday welcomed news of the Victorian government funding as critical to the success of technology that will be a “cornerstone” of a clean electric grid.
“Victoria can be an offshore wind powerhouse and the zone off the Gippsland coast has been recognised by the Australian Energy Market Operator as being critical to the clean energy transition,” said CEC chief Kane Thornton.
“Additionally, offshore wind projects and their proximity to regions most impacted by the retirement of fossil fuel generators will provide critical job opportunities for workers and their communities,” Thornton said.
“With the Yallourn coal-fired power station set to close by 2028, we need to start planning for the state’s future energy needs and creating new jobs for people in Gippsland,” said Wendy Farmer, Friends of the Earth’s Gippsland Renewables campaigner.
“Offshore wind represents an opportunity to create thousands of new jobs in Gippsland in everything from manufacturing and construction to logistics, maintenance and more, and uphold the region’s proud history of power generation.”