Australia looks to clear way for offshore wind farms

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Australia’s conservative government introduced legislation on Thursday that could help clear the way for offshore wind farms to go ahead in a country considered to have massive offshore renewable energy potential.

The long awaited legislation will set up a framework for building, running, maintaining and decommissioning offshore electricity projects including wind generation and transmission cables, with environmental and financial safeguards.

“An offshore electricity industry in Australia will further strengthen our economy, create jobs and opportunities for Australians and enhance the delivery of affordable and reliable power,” Energy Minister Angus Taylor said in a statement.

Projects that could progress if the legislation passes, as expected, include the Star of the South wind project off the coast of Victoria, the Marinus Link transmission line from Tasmania to Victoria, and Sun Cable, which plans to deliver solar power from the Northern Territory to Singapore.

“This legislation is a key step to realising Australia’s offshore wind potential and unlocking the associated economic benefits, including providing opportunities for the nation’s strong resources and maritime sectors,” Star of the South Chief Executive Casper Frost Thorhauge said in a statement.

There are more than 10 proposed offshore wind projects with a combined capacity of more than 25 gigawatts (GW), a recent government research report said, adding that with a coastline of almost 60,000 km (37,283 miles) with “very high wind resources”, it made sense to consider developing an offshore wind industry.

Onshore wind farms with combined capacity of 7.4 GW supplied nearly 10% of Australia’s power in 2020, with a further 21 onshore wind farms with a total capacity of 4 GW due to start construction.

The legislation has widespread support from the opposition Labor Party, unions and green groups, in stark contrast to most of the government’s other energy proposals, which are seen as supporting gas and coal to the detriment of renewable energy.

“Australia’s wind capacity has been likened to the North Sea – an area that’s leading the world in offshore wind generation. Investing in and growing this industry is a no-brainer for Australia, but it needs to be done right,” said Climate Council spokesperson Madeline Taylor.