Australia's Ambitious Offshore Wind Plans Set to Boost Renewable Energy
Posted 08/09/2023 14:00
Australia is gearing up to harness its vast offshore wind potential, positioning itself to become a clean energy superpower as it aims to transition to a more sustainable future. The country's government has set an ambitious goal of meeting 82% of its electricity needs through renewable energy sources by 2030.
While onshore wind energy is well-established in Australia, the offshore wind sector remains largely untapped, offering significant potential for expansion. Offshore wind farms offer the advantage of producing more energy efficiently with fewer installations, along with access to more reliable and consistent wind speeds. These factors, coupled with cost reductions, make offshore wind power increasingly competitive.
The Australian government introduced the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Regulations in 2022, signaling its commitment to offshore wind development. The government identified six regions for offshore wind project development, with two officially declared: Gippsland, Victoria, and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. The remaining regions, including Illawarra in NSW, Portland off Victoria, Bass Strait off Northern Tasmania, and offshore Perth in Western Australia, are under consideration.
Victoria, in particular, has set ambitious targets, aiming for 2 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2032, with plans to increase it to 4 GW by 2035 and 9 GW by 2040. The state believes that up to 33 GW of offshore wind capacity could be achievable by harnessing resources in deeper waters further from the coast. This strategy is seen as essential since onshore renewables alone may not be sufficient to decarbonize the state due to land constraints.
Australia has embraced the concept of Renewable Energy Zones (REZs), which cluster renewable developments, both onshore and offshore, for improved economies of scale. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) identified 41 REZ sites across eastern Australia in 2022 and identified six offshore wind zones as part of its Integrated System Plan update.
Several international and local companies have shown interest in Australia's offshore wind potential. BlueFloat Energy, for instance, has announced four projects, including the 1.7 GW Eastern Rise, 2.1 GW Greater Gippsland, 1.2 GW Southern Winds, and 1.6 GW South Pacific projects, combining floating and bottom-fixed turbines. EDF Renewables has acquired the Newcastle offshore wind farm, which has the potential for 10 GW of capacity.
While Australia's offshore wind industry is poised for growth, it faces competition from other regions worldwide. Europe has led offshore wind development, installing 2.5 GW in 2022, and the United States has made significant strides. To succeed, Australia must address supply chain challenges, infrastructure development, and resource allocation efficiently.
While offshore wind costs have increased due to rising demand, Australia is focused on long-term policy stability and developing its workforce to manage these projects effectively. The government has also committed to investing up to A$3 billion from the National Reconstruction Fund in renewables manufacturing, providing long-term incentives for investors.
The recently signed Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement includes provisions for the mobility of highly skilled personnel in key sectors, including energy, fostering international collaboration in the offshore wind industry.
As coal power plants phase out, offshore wind is set to play a pivotal role in Australia's transition to cleaner and more sustainable energy sources.