Testing at Australia’s First Offshore Windfarm Begins

Testing has begun at what will become Australia’s first offshore windfarm, located off the coast of Gippsland, Victoria which could potentially power up to 1.2 million dwellings when completed.

Nicknamed ‘The Star of the South’, the wind farm can produce up to 2000-megawatts of renewable power - around 18 per cent of Victoria’s overall power demand - and is slated to cost anywhere between $8-10 billion.

News of the test coincides with a union movement urging the state and federal government to facilitate the project’s continuation, according to The Age’s Benjamin Preiss. “Previous estimates indicated the Star of the SOuth wind farm could include 250 turbines, but that is yet to be determined,” according to Preiss. “Its proposed site is between 10 kilometres and 25 kilometres from Port Albert.”

In the coming weeks, the company set to be operating the wind farm will study wind and wave conditions off the Gippsland coast in a 496-square kilometre area, as well as relevant environmental impacts the site could potentially have on native marine and bird species. If the tests result with the wind farm project being deemed ‘feasible’, full power generation is slated for 2027, according to estimates.

A spokesperson from the Star of the South has said that due to the fact that winds are stronger and more consistent over the ocean, this helps the farm to “provide stability into the grid at peak times.”

We’re investigating what the Star of the South could mean for Gippsland and local industry, including how we could help reskill and invest in the local workforce to develop an offshore wind industry in Australia,” she said. The company has also said that it could capitalise on the existing infrastructure leftover from coal-fired plants in the Latrobe Valley to channel electricity from the offshore site to the main grid.

Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews has said that while the project is still pending environmental studies and federal approval, it represents a solid baseload of power “given the volume of wind at sea,” in the words of Preiss. The Victorian government has previously set a target of 50% renewable energy in its grid by 2030.

“That could be firmed up with some battery technology onshore, Andrews said, adding that “there’d be significant maintenance jobs.”

Locals of the nearby Latrobe Valley region are hoping that the wind farm will replenish jobs that were previously employed in the coal-fired electricity generation industry which, in 2017 saw the closure of the major Hazelwood power plant; the remaining coal-fired plants are expected to be decommissioned in the coming decades.

Luke Hilakari, Victorian Trades Hall Council is calling for the state and federal government to help with the transition, stressing the importance of ensuring locals have jobs in the decades to come. “This transition must be managed in a way that ensures workers and their communities are put front and centre,” adding that research suggests the wind farm could create 300 ongoing jobs, as well as 2000 construction jobs in the area.

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