The Federal Government has officially declared Australia’s second offshore wind zone in the Pacific Ocean off the Hunter region in New South Wales, which is expected to support future onshore manufacturing and energy security in the State for decades to come.
The declared area stretches over 1,800km² between Swansea and Port Stephens and could generate up to 5GW of wind energy, enough to power an estimated 4.2 million homes and power local industries into the future.
The final area was declared after two months of public consultation with a smaller footprint than the originally proposed zone – balancing the views of the local community, local industry and sea users.
The strong, consistent winds off the coast, along with the region’s skilled energy and manufacturing workforce, make the Hunter an ideal location for an offshore wind industry.
The revised zone will be 20km from the coast in the north and over 35km from the coast in the south.
These changes enable continued safe management of shipping and other sea industries. Offshore infrastructure will also be limited to a height of 260m to address aviation safety.
Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, said the declaration was another big step for Australia to reap the huge benefits of offshore wind.
“The Hunter is undergoing significant economic change, and the prospect of creating new job opportunities for decades to come through a new offshore wind industry is a game changer,” Mr Bowen said.
“Today’s declaration opens the door for a new industry in the Hunter, which could create over 3,000 construction jobs and another 1,560 ongoing jobs.”
Federal Member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon MP, said this was an exciting opportunity for Newcastle to diversify its economy, while becoming home to a new offshore wind industry.
“The Federal Government has listened to community feedback and revised the offshore wind zone accordingly to ensure it coexists alongside whale migration, bird and sea life, and our shipping industry.
“This is an important part of a suite of measures which will position Newcastle and the Hunter as a clean energy hub, including a $100 million investment to ensure hydrogen readiness at the Port of Newcastle. Newcastle has a bright future.”
Feasibility licence applications for offshore wind projects in the Hunter area will open from 8 August until 14 November 2023.
During the feasibility licence stage, developers will be required to undertake further consultation on individual proposals, including detailed environmental assessments and impacts on other marine users.
Construction can only begin after the feasibility stage is completed, and environmental and management plan approvals are gained.
Climate Councillor, energy expert and senior lecturer at Macquarie University, School of Law, Dr Madeline Taylor, said offshore wind will be a key pillar of Australia’s future renewable energy mix.
“The Hunter offshore wind zone will be another piece in the puzzle in decarbonising Australia’s energy system as we continue switching away from carbon-intensive fuels,” Dr Taylor said.
“We know renewable energy will deeply, permanently and immediately reduce emissions. As one of the windiest places on earth, Australia should be cashing in on those solutions and creating a prosperous and sustainable future.
“Australia holds the potential to generate up to 5,000GW of electricity from offshore wind using a combination of fixed and floating infrastructure.
“Australia is endowed with some of the richest and most diverse renewable energy resources. The right investment and planning in offshore wind is Australia’s golden ticket to a clean energy future.”
Climate Council CEO, Amanda McKenzie, said, “We have a huge opportunity to seize our potential and get more renewables – like offshore wind – online as we work to dramatically slash our emissions this decade.”
Ms McKenzie said wind energy is one of the cheapest ways to add new electricity supply in Australia, especially as power prices continue to bite.
“Ramping up the renewables rollout will bring us closer to lower power bills and less harmful carbon pollution.
“We must maintain this momentum if Australia is to become a renewable energy superpower.
“To protect Australians and tackle climate change we must rapidly phase out highly polluting fossil fuels – like coal, oil and gas – and scale up the share of clean, affordable renewables to power Australia into the future.”
BlueFloat Energy’s Australian Country Manager, Nick Sankey, said BlueFloat, who has several offshore wind farms projects planned in the Hunter region, is excited about the announcement and applaud the Federal Government’s feedback-oriented approach.
“We want to create lasting benefits for the Hunter region through the delivery of our project,” Mr Sankey said.
“Our recent public drop-in sessions represent the start of our consultation and there will be plenty of opportunities for feedback during the design and approvals phase.
“This is a fantastic step towards Australia’s clean energy future, and we look forward to having the opportunity to submit a Feasibility License application and start working to create jobs and provide clean energy for the Hunter region.”
BlueFloat Energy’s Head of Environment and Planning, Deb Neumann, said consultation remains at the heart of the company’s priorities.
“At the public drop-in sessions in the region, we heard that whilst the transition to renewable energy is supported, the community wants a focus on studying the potential impact of the project on the marine environment, particularly whales and migratory birds.
“These studies and related analyses will be undertaken during the environmental assessment phase, and there will be opportunity for feedback.”