Offshore wind could provide up to twenty percent of Victoria’s energy needs by the turn of the century if ambitions identified in a new paper are realised.

The Victorian Government has released a paper outlining the state’s policy direction to realise the potential of its offshore wind resources.

The paper sets targets for offshore wind renewable generation.

The first target will see at least 2 gigawatts (GW) come online by 2032 – enough to power 1.5 million homes.

This will increase to 4 GW by 2035 and 9 GW by 2040.

By 2050, state has potential to support 13 GW of offshore wind capacity.

That is three times current renewable capacity and more than one-fifth of the 60GW in renewables the state says it needs to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

According to the paper, Victoria’s best offshore wind development opportunities lie in two zones.

A ‘Gippsland Zone off the state’s east coast past Bairnsdale has the potential to support around 10 GW of energy generation by 2050.

Meanwhile, a smaller Portland West Zone off the far-west Coast may support a further 3GW.

These areas are ideal because of:

  • Strong and consistent wind speeds
  • Large areas of shallow water (less than 50-60 metres deep) which is suitable for deployment of the fixed-platform turbines which are currently being deployed overseas at scale.
  • Ports which can support construction, operation and maintenance in both zones; and
  • A strong transmission grid which can be accessed from both zones.

 

As well as supplying clean energy, the paper says offshore wind generation of the scale envisaged by 2050 would generate between 4,500 and 6,100 jobs in development, construction and operation.

These would be mostly localised positions and would include crane operators, wind turbine technicians, electricians, metalworkers/welders/mechanical fitters, electrical/grid/power system engineers and construction and project managers.

The paper’s release come as Victoria aims to halve its greenhouse gas emissions (compared with 2005 levels) and achieve 50 percent renewable generation  by 2030 and to achieve net-zero by 2050.

To achieve net-zero, the paper says the state will need to increase its renewable generation capacity from around 4GW of operational capacity today (through onshore wind and solar) to around 60GW by 2050.

Whilst onshore wind and solar will continue to play an important role (a further 7GW of onshore solar and wind is proposed or committed over the next decade), constraints on onshore development mean that the state will not be able to meet its renewable energy objectives through these sources alone.

These constraints relate to land availability and the degree to which land which may otherwise be suitable is needed for agriculture (along with local resistance to wind farm development in some areas).

Meanwhile, whilst offshore wind remains more costly compared with onshore wind and solar for now, that gap is expected to narrow over time (refer chart).

The paper also comes amid increasing momentum in offshore wind development overseas.

First taking off in Europe two decades ago, development is now occurring in China, the UA, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.

Globally, installed offshore capacity sits at 35 GW and is expected to increase to 100 GW by 2025.

To help establish the offshore wind industry in Victoria, the government last November pledged around $40 million under its Energy Innovation Fund to fund feasibility studies and pre-construction development for three major offshore wind proposals.

These include:

  • A potential 2.2 GW offshore wind farm off the coast of Gippsland which is under consideration by Star of the South
  • A potential 1 GW offshore wind farm off the Bass Coast (Macquarie Group)
  • A potential 1.5 GW offshore wind farm off the Gippsland Coast being considered by Floatation Energy.

Combined, these projects could add 4.7GW of new capacity, power around 3.6 million homes and generate more than $18 billion worth of investment.

According to the government’s plan, the first offshore wind tranche will be procured by 2025 whilst the first power will be available by 2028.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the strategy was an important part of the state’s transition to clean energy.

“We’re not just talking about transitioning to clean energy, we’re actually delivering it – along with thousands of jobs in one of the world’s fastest growing industries and cheaper bills for millions of households,” Andrews said.

Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio acknowledges that the complexity, scale, regulation and infrastructure requirements means that planning and developing the first tranche of offshore wind projects would take years.

But she said the state was now starting on that journey.