Offshore wind energy presents advantages as part of growing Australian blue economy

August 18, 2021 Mining Editor

A new report on Australia’s offshore wind potential calls for a renewed consideration of how the technology can dramatically contribute to Australia’s future clean energy mix.

BY CHRIS GERBING

Offshore wind is booming globally with the International Energy Agency viewing offshore wind as one of the big three sources of clean energy alongside solar and onshore wind. Australia is yet to fully capitalise on its potential to harness our capacity in this new energy resource.

Australia has abundant offshore wind resources and new developments in floating offshore wind turbines allow access to high-quality deeper water sites that are currently inaccessible with the current dominant technology. High capacity locations have been identified across Tasmania, the Bass Strait, Western Australia and to a lesser extent, the coast of NSW and Queensland.

The advantages that Australia’s offshore wind can bring through higher capacity factors, a diverse energy supply that complements solar and onshore wind along and employment opportunities cannot be underestimated.

The Offshore Wind Potential for Australia project evaluated the feasibility and potential of offshore wind to contribute to Australia’s energy needs and identifies barriers to its large-scale development. The project undertook high-level mapping, investigating 12 locations around the Australian coast adjacent to energy infrastructure and demand centres.

Key findings included:

  • A regulatory regime for the development of offshore renewable energy in Commonwealth waters needs to be established to enable timely permitting and leasing decisions and should consider including marine allocation of space for offshore renewable energy projects.
  • Offshore wind should be incorporated into national and state energy planning as the project finds that across all states, offshore wind has potential to provide a significant amount of energy at times that other renewable energy is not producing, along with higher capacity factors.
  • Offshore wind should be incorporated into planning for the National Hydrogen Strategy and ‘Energy Superpower’ scenarios. If Australia is to become an ‘Energy Superpower’, offshore wind could be an important source of power located adjacent to many ports and industrial facilities to meet increased demand.
  • Strategic investment in offshore wind should be considered by Federal and State Governments, as seen by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Australian Renewable Energy Agency to accelerate large-scale solar, to assist in de-risking and developing local offshore wind.
  • Offshore wind can develop into a significant source of maritime employment.
  • Detailed research is required to assess cost-benefits of offshore wind to energy, environmental and social systems.

Chris Briggs, Research Director from the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney highlights the employment potential and opportunities for fossil fuel industry workers
“Offshore wind has been an important source of alternative employment as Europe transitions to clean energy, especially the offshore oil and gas sector where the skills are often highly transferable. Offshore wind can play an important role in a ‘just transition’ in Australia”.

With costs falling rapidly and the potential for large 10+ MW turbines to allow offshore scalability and single 2 GW single projects to providing valuable resources as coal plants close and the energy transition accelerates, warrants the need for reconsideration.

Project Leader, Mark Hemer of CSIRO and the Blue Economy CRC
“Offshore wind has the potential to contribute to the energy system through higher capacity factors and diversity of energy supply. This is particularly important under ‘energy superpower’ scenarios including mass electrification and hydrogen production”.

The project brought together expertise from CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency; the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney; Saitec Offshore; and the Maritime Union of Australia with contributions from the Electrical Trades Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union and Australian Council of Trade Unions.



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