Plans to build a $1 billion, 300MW offshore wind farm in Western Australian waters around 140km south of Perth, and have it generating electricity by the summer of 2026, have been submitted for state environmental approval.
The project was referred to the WA Environmental Protection Authority this week by Australis Energy, a UK-based offshore wind farm developer that is currently focusing on opportunities in Australia, including projects proposed for state waters in Victoria and South Australia.
Fully-owned Australis subsidiary WA Offshore Windfarm Pty Ptd proposes to install between 20 and 37 wind turbines around 5.5km off the coast between Preston Beach and Myalup, north of Bunbury.
In a 60-page supporting document submitted to the EPA, the company said the preferred turbine size for the project would be 15MW, which would mean only 20 turbines would be required, resulting in less construction and reduced visual impact.
The proposal notes that the turbines would all be located in Western Australian coastal waters – as would also be the case for the proposed SA and Victoria projects. This differs from the massive Star of the South project currently being proposed for Victoria, which is planned for Commonwealth waters and thus requires federal government approvals.
The WA project’s landfall site and onshore infrastructure are yet to be determined, the documents say, although the southern end of the wind farm towards Myalup is one option, with the existing Western Power substation at Kemerton offering a potential grid connection point.
“The selected location makes use of the very good wind resources …(and) water depths <20m along most of the coastline and good access to the South West Interconnector System (SWIS) that is unlikely to require reinforcement,” the document says.
Australis is chaired by Mark Petterson, who has been a pioneer in the UK offshore wind sector. As part of Warwick Energy, he led the development of three successful offshore projects – including the Thanet project, the world’s largest offshore wind farm when it was commissioned in 2010.
“Australia is in a position, particularly in the southern half of the country, to create a significant new offshore industry,” the WA Offshore Windfarm documents say.
“Conventional energy generation companies are already diversifying their operations into renewable energy sectors and the offshore oil and gas industry is in a unique position to exploit its highly skilled offshore workforce.
“The density of wind energy offshore in south western Australia represents an attractive location for offshore windfarms, and when combined with the relatively shallow waters, and small tidal range, the proposedstate waters location represents an ideal location for an initial offshore windfarm construction to kickstart the industry.”
The Australis project is the second offshore wind farm to be proposed for Western Australia, with oil and gas explorer Pilot Energy last year announcing a feasibility study into a massive 1,100MW project, that would install some of the world’s largest offshore wind turbines in waters previously earmarked for oil and gas exploration.
The much more modest Australis project, which would power 200,000 Western Australian homes, looks like it could get up first – and could even beat the Star of the South to become Australia’s first offshore wind farm. But it still has a way to go, including Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act approval and state planning approval.
Subject to the progress of these, the developers are hoping construction will commence in early 2025 for the wind farm to be generating electricity by the summer 2026 peak period, the proposal says.