Australia eyes offshore wind deployment

By Anders Lorenzen

Australia has become the latest country to jump on the wave of offshore wind development. Analysts expect the country could soon see a big boom in offshore wind.

Australia’s new pro-climate action government has meant an acceleration in clean energy interest and capacity. The country’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has committed to a net-zero emissions target by 2050. To meet that target, 96 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable energy capacity is needed. Offshore wind developers, Orsted, Shell and Equinor have already shown a strong interest in helping.

Onshore wind currently accounts for 10% of Australia’s electricity needs. The country does not yet have any offshore wind farms built or any in planning or development, but there are plans to change this fast. Last year a new law was enacted that set out a framework for offshore wind development and the government has been busy identifying the offshore zones which are to be opened up. The first area proposed is off Victoria state’s Gippsland coast. The company Flotation Energy has already proposed a project in that zone.

Equinor, the Norwegian state-owned oil and gas company, also sees big potential in the country, having earmarked it as one of its top three Asia-Pacific markets for offshore wind.

The challenges

Australia is of course not immune to those challenges facing any new country entering the offshore wind market. These are concerns about the impacts on wildlife and the country’s geographical location. First of all, the country will need new regulations and government departments will need to be set up to handle licensing and approvals. It will also quickly need to build up the infrastructure needed, and a supply chain and to train workers for those skills required in a variety of different skills. But many clean energy enthusiasts argue that it is a golden opportunity to create thousands of clean energy jobs. There’s also the opportunity to harness the offshore industry and expertise for previous and existing developments such as the oil and gas industry.

Global offshore wind developers are watching the development closely, while local companies are working out where they can offer their services. 

Victoria state has set ambitious targets to produce 2 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2032 and 9 GW by 2040. And New South Wales is also hoping to be a big offshore wind player, attracting bids for eight projects with a total of 12.9 GW of capacity.

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