Site exploration tests for what would be Australia’s first offshore wind farm, the massive 2000MW Star of the South project, are set to begin off the south coast of Gippsland in Victoria in November.
The project, which in March got the green light from federal government for a site exploration, will this month begin detailed studies of the wind and wave conditions, as well as environmental studies on marine and bird life.
The ambitious project was first formally unveiled in June 2017, when it proposed the construction of 250 turbines in what are Commonwealth waters between 8-13 kilometres offshore from Port Albert.
In December 2017, Melbourne-based Offshore Energy announced they had entered into a partnership with Danish outfit Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, to progress its development.
The wind farm, which is near to Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, aims to tap into the existing transmission infrastructure that exists in what has been the state’s coal generation region, with an undersea cable.
And if it goes ahead, it promises enough to generate one-and-a-half times the energy of the now-closed Hazelwood coal-fired power station.
Offshore Energy was founded seven years ago, under the leadership of CEO Andy Evans, formerly of Acciona, and former chief of geothermal hopeful Petratherm, Terry Kallis, who chairs the company.
For Copenhagen Infrastructure Partner, Star of the South marks the first venture into the Southern Hemisphere for the facility, which has more than €5 billion ($A7.79 billion) under management for investment in renewables, including two other offshore wind farms.
The exploration licence was hailed as a “first tick” from the Morrison government, even though energy minister Angus Taylor – who is no fan of wind energy – stressed at the time that the government was not providing financial support toward its development.
And with tests set to get underway, developers are hoping the minister and others within the federal Coalition will be more open-minded about an offshore wind project – particularly considering the amount of jobs and economic activity it has been forecast to generate in the region.
In July, Offshore Energy launched a labour market study to ensure the Australian market would have the capability to deliver what would be one of the nation’s largest renewable energy projects.
The Age reported on Monday that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the project was still a way off being approved (federally), but suggested it was being considered as a form of “baseload power” given the volume of wind at sea.
“That could be firmed up with some battery technology onshore,” he said. “There’d be significant maintenance jobs.”
Taylor, meanwhile, pointed to the need for an offshore energy infrastructure development framework.
“A future regulatory framework for offshore energy infrastructure will have to accommodate transmission, generation and other ocean-user concerns,” he said.