Australia’s first offshore wind farm zone has been labelled a game changer by environmental advocates and is expected to drive further investment in the renewables industry.
Gippsland’s coast in south Victoria will be home to the turbines with the heavy winds of the Bass Strait offering plenty of wild weather to power Australian homes.
The zoned area covers about 15,000sq kilometres offshore running from Lakes Entrance in the east to south of Wilsons Promontory in the west.
The projects are expected to support more than 3000 jobs over the next 15 years in development and construction phases and an extra 3000 ongoing operation jobs.
Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen made the announcement alongside his Victorian counterpart Lily D’Ambrosio and Industry Minister Ed Husic.
Mr Bowen said the announcement was a crucial step towards affordable, reliable and secure energy for Australia.
“Offshore wind is rich in energy and rich in jobs,” he said.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said it was an exciting development and would build up a rich resource off Victoria’s coast.
“It is one of the most significant wind resources anywhere in the world,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
“And when the Danish know that, when the Scots know it, when the Spanish know it, then you know that you’re on to something really, really important.”
Environmental advocates Friends of the Earth said the development of Gippsland’s offshore wind sector would be a “game changer” for the state’s efforts to tackle climate change and create thousands of new job opportunities.
One of the zone’s projects – the Star of the South offshore wind farm – has also been granted major project status which means the government will work with developers to ensure it is completed as quickly as possible without unnecessary regulatory delay.
Investors welcomed the announcement as a sign to double down on their developments in the renewables sector.
Tim Sawyer, head of Flotation Energy which is developing the Seadragon offshore wind project, said the announcement would ignite further investment.
The announcement follows a lengthy consultation process across the region.
Community concerns saw the original proposed areas shrunk and put a 10km buffer zone from the shore to limit the visual and environment impact.
Mr Bowen said he wanted communities to be assured when consultation was held, the government would listen.
He said areas originally proposed would still be considered but only after further investigation about the environmental impacts.
The future farms would be hooked into energy grids on the mainland in Gippsland and La Trobe Valley, with the potential to provide 10 gigawatts per year of wind power.
Mr Husic said the project would be a “shot in the arm” for the region’s economy and was the result of federal, state and local governments working collaboratively.
Maeve Bannister, Finbar O’Mallon and Callum Godde
(Australian Associated Press)