Australia Offshore Windfarm Considerably Smaller than Proposed

Offshore windfarm at sunset
Updated Published

Australia's federal government has officially recognized a section of the Southern Ocean off Victoria as the nation’s third designated area for offshore wind development, though with a significantly diminished capacity for power generation than initially anticipated.

Originally proposed to support 14GW of offshore wind energy, the designated area has been scaled down by the government to accommodate only 2.9GW.

Covering 1,030 square kilometers and located about 20 kilometers from Port Fairy, the initial plan was to extend the zone from Warrnambool in western Victoria to Port MacDonnell in South Australia. However, the officially designated area has now been restricted to exclude the region off South Australia's coast.

This adjustment was made following the climate change and energy ministry's review of feedback from public consultations held between June and August 2023. The ministry cited the reduced zone size as a measure to steer clear of "important environmental areas and major commercial fishing grounds," as well as to mitigate concerns over the visual impact of the wind farms.

Prospective developers have until July 2 to submit applications for feasibility licenses for offshore wind ventures within the newly defined zone. Any construction activity is contingent upon the completion of the feasibility studies and the acquisition of necessary environmental and management plan approvals.

The inaugural offshore wind zone was proclaimed in 2022, situated in the Bass Strait off Gippsland, covering 15,000 square kilometers with a potential for 10GW capacity. However, a proposal for a seaport terminal in Victoria was declined due to environmental concerns. In 2023, a second zone was established off New South Wales’ Hunter region, measuring 1,854 square kilometers and capable of supporting 5.2GW.

Additionally, the government has solicited public input on two more proposed sites: one off Illawarra with a 4.2GW potential and another in the Bass Strait near northern Tasmania, with a prospective capacity of up to 28GW. Consultations are ongoing for a sixth and final zone off Western Australia, expected to offer 20GW of capacity. As of now, Australia does not have any operational offshore wind farms, with the first expected to become operational in the early 2030s.