Victoria: On the map for offshore wind

After years of disarray in national energy policy, Victoria is taking the lead on wind and solar power. And this leadership has put Victoria on the map for offshore wind.

A recent report by the Clean Energy Regulator shows that Victoria is attracting as much as 43 percent of Australia’s investment in the wind and solar sectors. This outcome is due in no small part to the successful Victorian Renewable Energy Target. 

While the renewable energy investment currently flowing to the state’s west, where most of Victoria’s wind energy is built, and the state’s north, which is attracting large-scale solar, Gippsland in the state’s east is shaping up as a place to invest in offshore wind.

Offshore wind is experiencing significant growth in the UK, Europe and the United States. According to the International Renewable Energy Association, the world’s offshore wind sector is expected to grow to $350 billion by 2030. In the UK, the government’s landmark wind sector deal aims to secure 30 gigawatts of offshore wind to deliver a third of the country’s electricity needs and triple the number of ‘green collar jobs’.

Australia currently has no offshore wind sector. But Gippsland has recently attracted attention for what could be the country’s first offshore wind farm – the Star of the South, proposed for Gippsland South. If it goes ahead the 2 gigawatt proposal has the potential to power as many as 1.2 million homes, avoid up to 10.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, and create thousands of jobs in construction, logistics, maintenance, servicing, and maintenance.

As reported by the Gippsland Times, Offshore Energy is kicking off a round of consultation into the Star of the South on Thursday 12th September, with public information sessions being held in Morwell, Lakes Entrance, Yarram, Woodside, Leongatha, and Port Franklin over ten days.

We’re encouraging people to attend the info sessions to learn more about the proposal and to have your say about the proposal — find more info about the sessions here.

While Australia’s offshore wind sector is in the early stages of development, if the first project is a success, it could pave the way for the creation of a whole new sector. The complexity and scale of offshore wind farms means the sector is likely to create hundreds of good, well-payed permanent jobs: it’s no surprise that Star of the South has won the backing of the Maritime Union of Australia, who represent 16,000 Australian stevedores, seafarers, and offshore oil and gas workers.

As revealed in July, 2019, a study is now underway to identify the labor needs of the project, including the various types of jobs that will be required to make it a success.

For example, building a large-scale offshore wind farm like Star of the South will likely require setting up domestic manufacturing and a larger operations and maintenance workforce.

Victoria is already home to one wind tower manufacturer Keppel Prince in Portland in the state’s west – the creation of an offshore wind sector could mean a second. This represents an opportunity to create good climate jobs while doing a heavy lift on cutting emissions.

Proposed in waters directly east of Port Albert about one hours drive from the Latrobe Valley, home to the country’s most polluting brown coal fired power stations, the Star of the South represents an opportunity for the region to prosper as Victoria moves towards a zero-carbon economy.

For example, the Latrobe Valley could establish itself as an offshore wind servicing hub, and potentially house some manufacturing. This would see the region benefit economically from the shift to renewable energy. Federation University Gippsland could follow the lead of its sister campus in Ballarat, and establish training courses for the wind sector, which would offer a new career pathway for young people in the region. 

In addition, building a large-scale offshore wind farm in the east of the state would complement the renewable energy supply from the west, helping put the state on the path to a grid powered entirely by renewable energy and storage.

If we’re going to prevent the worst possible impacts of the climate crisis – from extreme drought to more frequent bushfires and sea level rise – it’s vital we embrace solutions that match the scale of the problem. Offshore wind is one of those solutions, and could create thousands of good climate jobs.

Gippsland has long played a role in generating Victoria’s electricity. Embracing offshore wind would mean that tradition continues into the future as the state transitions to a zero-carbon economy.

GET INVOLVED: Join Yes 2 Renewables at our regular action meetings, every Tuesday 6PM upstairs at Friends of the Earth Melbourne

JOIN US: Sign up as an Active Friend of Yes 2 Renewables, or make a once-off donation.

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