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Six bidders win feasibility licences for Australia’s first offshore wind farm zone off Gippsland

Minister Chris Bowen will speak at the Energy Users of Australia Association conference today.

Posted on May 6, 2024

Australia’s first offshore wind zone is a step closer to becoming a reality after the federal government confirmed the first proponents to receive feasibility licences.

High Sea Wind, Gippsland Skies, Blue Mackerel North, Kut-Wut Brataualung, Ørsted Offshore Australia 1, and Star of the South Wind Farm have all been chosen to proceed after submitting applications last year.

The feasibility licences allow developers to undertake detailed environmental assessments, geotechnical surveys, obtain approvals and undertake further consultation on their proposed projects.

The announcement is set to be made during an address by federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen at the Energy Users of Australia Association annual conference in Melbourne on Wednesday morning.

In the speech, obtained in advance by the ABC, Mr Bowen will say the market response to the development of Australia’s first offshore wind zone was “huge” and “massively oversubscribed”.

A total of 37 applications were received for the 15,000 square kilometre zone off Gippsland, in Victoria’s east.

A map shows the location of the proposed offshore wind projects in waters off Gippsland.

“We wanted 600 megawatts of new dispatchable capacity. We received bids for 19,000 megawatts — 32 times more than what we asked for,” Mr Bowen will say.

“AEMO [Australian Energy Market Operator] Services has shortlisted projects in what is clearly a very competitive environment.”

Additional projects asked to review proposals

The government said it also intended to grant a further six licences to Iberdrola Australia OW 2 (for its Aurora Green wind farm), Greater Gippsland 2 OWP Project (Gippsland Dawn), Navigator North Project, Ørsted Offshore Australia 1 (Gippsland 02), Kent Offshore Wind, and Great Eastern Offshore Wind Farm Project Co.

These additional proponents have been asked to revise and resubmit their applications to remove any overlap with other projects.

Meanwhile, a decision has been made not to grant feasibility licences to the remaining 25 applicants.

Floatation Energy’s Seadragon offshore wind project was one of the 25 not to be awarded a feasibility license.

This was despite the project being awarded Major Project Status by the federal government last year.

The company’s manager and executive director Carolyn Sanders said she was “surprised” and “extremely disappointed” by the decision.

Gippsland community to have major voice

Mr Bowen first declared the area off Gippsland as a suitable location for renewable wind energy in December 2022.

An impression of wind turbines off the coast off Gippsland in Victoria’s east.

Feasibility licence applications were accepted for proposed projects within the declared area from January 23 to April 27 in 2023.

The site stretches across nearly 15,000 square kilometres offshore from Lakes Entrance in the east, to south of Wilsons Promontory in the west.

Mr Bowen will tell attendees at Wednesday’s conference that he remains committed to ensuring locals are involved in the decision-making process as development progresses.

Minister Chris Bowen said it was a competitive race as feasibility licences were handed out.

“Crucially, the Gippsland community will have several further opportunities to have their say before any construction [of wind turbines] commences,” his speech reads.

“That includes when proponents develop management plans, seek approvals, and apply for commercial licences … and we’ll listen to that feedback.”

It was confirmed on August 31 last year that the region west of Wilsons Promontory would not be considered for future offshore wind projects due to environmental concerns.

Mr Bowen’s speech says it is a clear example of the government listening to impacted residents.

“I reduced the draft zone substantially, following consultation.”

Star of the South’s interactive map shows how the offshore wind turbines will look from Woodside Beach.

Approval ‘some time away’

If the shortlisted projects proceed, they have the potential to generate up to 25 gigawatts of power a year, which is more electricity than the entire state of Victoria generated in 2023.

“Even just some of that potential will make a substantial contribution to filling the gap left by coal in Victoria,” Mr Bowen will say.

Additionally, it is estimated the projects may create more than 15,000 jobs during construction and another 7,500 ongoing positions once the turbines are operational.

Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources Lily D’Ambrosio said the projects were key to meeting the state’s renewable energy target of 2 gigawatts of offshore wind energy generation by 2032.

“We’re proud to be paving the way for the country’s first offshore wind farms,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“These offshore wind projects will also support thousands of jobs in Gippsland and across the supply chain.”

But there is still a long way to go.

Only once feasibility is proven will developers be able to apply for a commercial licence.

From there, they will be given final approval to build an offshore wind project and generate electricity commercially.


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