Introduction to offshore wind
Offshore wind refers to energy that is generated when the force of winds at sea turn large turbines, producing electricity.
The electricity produced travel through cables from the turbine to an offshore substation.
Undersea cables transport the electricity from an offshore substation to a land-based substation, where a transformer adjusts the voltage so that it can be connected into existing transmission grid infrastructure.
Benefits of offshore wind for Australia
Providing reliable and clean energy
Australia’s energy needs are increasing and our sources of energy are changing.
Coal fired power stations which we have relied on for decades are aging and most will retire over the next decade. We need to replace coal fired power with a large scale, reliable, cheap and clean source of energy. Offshore wind can provide this source of energy.
Australia has some of the best wind resources in the world.
Offshore wind farms can generate more energy than onshore wind with fewer installations.
Offshore wind turbines can also be larger than those on land and access stronger and more consistent wind.
Depending on the size of turbines used in an offshore wind project, a single project may be capable of producing 1.5 to 2 gigawatts of energy (1 gigawatt can power almost 1 million homes in a year).
By comparison, Australia’s largest coal fired power station, Eraring Power Station (that is closing), has an overall generating capacity of 2.9 gigawatts and accounts for 25% of New South Wales’ power requirements.
Growing an offshore wind industry and supply chain in Australia
Many developers have shown interest in establishing offshore wind in Australia.
Offshore wind is already an established industry in many places. International and onshore investors are attracted to our regulatory framework and investment environment.
Offshore wind project proposals that can demonstrate their benefits to the national interest will be considered in the licensing process.
Maximising opportunities for Australia’s communities and workers
The offshore wind industry presents a unique opportunity for regional communities.
A single 2 GW project can cost between $8 billion and $10 billion. During construction about 1200 workers will be needed. During operations and maintenance about 600 workers will be needed.
Offshore wind is a complex industry with many components, jobs & skills required. This creates opportunities for communities close to offshore wind farms.
An offshore wind industry brings new, long term energy jobs to regions. The Government will require projects to demonstrate their commitment to using Australian manufactured inputs in their projects.
An offshore wind farm requires many people with different skills and training to work together. For example, an offshore wind farm will need:
- project managers, engineers, cable installation managers and construction managers
- electrical, construction and mechanical tradespeople
- marine specialists
- business professionals.
Offshore wind developers will be required to talk to First Nations communities and existing marine users in the development of their projects to understand any concerns they have and develop arrangements for co-existence and benefit-sharing.
Moving towards net zero by 2050
Offshore wind will make a significant contribution to Australia achieving net zero by 2050.
We have established a regulatory framework to realise Australia’s offshore wind potential.
These areas have the potential to produce the renewable energy to support Australia becoming a renewable energy superpower.
Sustainable development of offshore wind
Offshore wind could generate a significant amount of renewable energy in Australia.
This is important for tackling climate change.
The impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems are already evident. We need new types of renewable energy, like offshore wind, to deal with these problems.
Environmental protections are in place for offshore wind developments. Actions are governed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
State and territory governments also have environmental protection legislation.
Coexistence with other marine users
The Australian offshore wind regulatory framework operates under the principle of shared use of the offshore marine environment.
This aims to balance competing interests. Australia’s marine waters are used for many activities. These include shipping, fishing, environment, tourism, and oil and gas extraction.
We consult during the assessment of an area to determine its suitability for offshore wind.
This is informed by First Nations people, existing marine users, state and Australian Government agencies, and the community.
Experience in the UK and Europe, where offshore wind has been operating for many years, demonstrates that offshore wind farms can exist alongside other industries and activities.
Refer to the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021 (OEI Act).
The support of local communities for offshore wind developments is important.
Community consultation on offshore wind developments occurs at multiple stages in the Australian process.
The initial consultation, when an area is proposed to be suitable for offshore renewable energy, is the community’s first opportunity to provide feedback on the area.
If an area is declared, project developers that receive feasibility licences will be required to consult with businesses using the marine area 3 more times before construction can begin. This includes:
- during approval processes, such as EPBC Approval, including public consultation
- during the development of the project’s management plan for feasibility works
- during the development of the project’s management plan for the commercial licence.
The Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner has prepared guidance for the offshore wind industry regarding considerations for community engagement. This offers the offshore wind industry a practical resource on effective community engagement.
Strategic partnerships to support the offshore wind industry
The Energy and Climate Change Ministerial Council (ECMC) includes Australian, state, territory, and New Zealand governments. We work together on energy and climate change issues.
The ECMC has an offshore renewables working group. It deals with matters specific to the offshore wind industry in Australia. This group will align different governments to support the growth of the offshore wind industry in Australia.
We also work closely with international partners through clean energy bilateral partnerships and multilateral forums.
Australia joined the Global Offshore Wind Alliance in 2022. This supports our work with other nations to advance offshore wind globally.