Australia chooses Gippsland for first offshore wind priority assessment

Out-Law News | 12 Apr 2022 | 1:35 am | 1 min. read

Australia has selected Bass Strait off Gippsland in the Victoria state as the country’s first priority area to assess for suitability for offshore wind developments, according to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER).

The area was chosen because it has good wind conditions, investor interest, confirmed grid connection plans and signs of support from the state government.

Renewables expert George Varma of Pinsent Masons said: “Given the number of offshore wind projects in development around the country, we have been waiting to see which areas the minister will prioritise, and which will be delayed. It is unsurprising that the Bass Strait has been prioritised, as it is the location of the 2.2 gigawatts (GW) Star of the South project, among others. There are up to 20 other offshore wind projects at varying levels of development around the country - mainly around the southwest of West Australia, and the New South Wales and Victoria coastlines – which will be waiting patiently for their turn.”

“This initial assessment process will set the tone for the industry going forward and we will be watching it very closely. The industry and other stakeholders will be expecting a thorough, but hopefully not unduly prolonged, assessment process,” he said.

The assessment will focus on the impacts of offshore renewable energy infrastructure activities on the area, with a special focus on the environment, including marine life and migratory birds, fisheries, shipping, other marine uses and local communities.

Once the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021 comes into force in June, the government will assess and announce more areas to develop as they are identified and prioritised. A minimum 60-day public consultation period is required.

The announcement follows the passage of enabling legislation through the Australian parliament in September 2021. In March, the Australian government released the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure framework draft regulations for public consultation. The draft regulations set out operational arrangements, including the licensing system,fees and taxation. The consultation period on the regulations is open until 22 April.

There are not currently any operational offshore wind farms in Australia. The Star of the South project, located off the south coast of Gippsland, is one of the first to be proposed in the country. Besides 2.2GW generating capacity, the project will also include around 100 kilometres of underground and subsea transmission cables, four offshore substations, and two to four onshore substations. Its construction work is scheduled to start in 2025 and finish in 2028.