Larger turbines also generate power more cheaply, says Andy Evans, who was co-founder and chief executive of Star of the South and now runs another offshore wind farm company, OceanEx.
A single 14 megawatt wind turbine of the type being built requires only one connection to a substation and less maintenance than two 7 megawatt wind turbines that were typical just a few years ago. Maintenance at sea with crews transported by boat or helicopter is expensive.
Evans confirmed that the OceanEx project defends 20 kilometers off the coast in the Hunter region will be visible from shore on a clear day, while the turbines proposed for the Illawarra could be slightly closer.
Despite this, the industry has largely maintained community support. Friends of the Earth spokesman Cam Walker said that as the NSW proposals were relatively new it was difficult to gauge opinion.
“We believe there is broad support for the jobs that would come with the development of offshore industry near cities like Newcastle and Wollongong, which have traditionally relied heavily on fossil fuels for employment and economic activity,” did he declare. “In Gippsland, we feel there is strong support for the Star of the South project, which is the only one to have advanced so far in the planning process.”
Wollongong Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the community welcomes energy sources that are not powered by fossil fuels and that the proposed projects will bring significant economic benefits to the community. He added that there had been some opposition within the community over the visual pollution, the impact on shipping lanes and whale migrations. These will be addressed as the projects progress.
“At the same time, I think that in light of [the] the climate change we are experiencing – and its impact on the Illawarra and NSW coastline – I think everyone is on the same page as anything carbon mitigating [is good],” he said.
For his part, a spokesperson for the New South Wales Department of Planning and Energy said the offshore wind industry has the potential to play a significant role in achieving net zero. here 2050.
Newcastle Council released a Mayor’s Minute backing Hunter’s proposal.
Why not just build them on land?
Despite the added costs of construction and maintenance, there are key advantages to harvesting wind offshore – even in countries like Australia which, unlike wind energy hotspots off the European coast, have land to resell.
The wind over water is more constant than that found on land, says Llewelyn Hughes, associate professor at ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, who specializes in energy transition.
In addition, the wind is stronger over water at night and over land during the day. As a result, offshore wind farms perfectly complement the diffusion of onshore solar and wind in the Australian energy mix.
But there are historical, political, geographic and even geological factors that make some sites preferable to others.
The wind is stronger and more consistent in southeastern Australia, and in this part of the country rich seams of coal are found along the coast. As a result, when the nation industrialized, the coal and electricity industries merged where these deep water seams and ports could be found together – places like Gippsland, Newcastle and Port Kembla.
Where once the steep underwater drop would have prevented the construction of large wind farms a reasonable distance from the shore, new technology allows the turbines to float and be moored to the sea floor.
The East Coast Electricity System was built to draw electricity from power stations near these ports and distribute it. These regions became centers of manufacturing and steelmaking.
Today, as the transition from coal accelerates, these same regions are being deprived of the new industries and jobs that offshore wind farms provide; and they provide ports and skilled labor that the wind industry desperately needs.
The Climate Council expects the industry to need 8,000 workers a year from 2030.
Their power plants are already connected to the grid, saving hundreds of millions that would otherwise have to be spent on new transmission infrastructure.
Director of Climate Energy Finance, Tim Buckley, said the advantage of offshore wind is that it adds greater geographical and technological diversity to the energy market. He said Australia had been slower than other countries to get into offshore wind, but its renewables sector had made leaps and bounds over the past 10 years.
Buckley added that there were a few main reasons why offshore wind projects had been delayed in Australia, including the huge capital investment required to get the projects off the ground – often two or three times the cost of building a farm. onshore wind power and the preparation of supply chains.
He added that another major setback had been the former Liberal government’s attitude towards renewable energy. “We had a chaotic energy policy, there was total inconsistency between the state and the federal government [governments],” he said. “We now have a situation where there is a level of ambition. I would expect a significant unlocking of private investment capital – much of which has been scared off by the lack of coherent policy so far.
Although offshore wind farms offer greater energy diversity and security, he added that they would represent part of the renewable energy push that would be needed if Australia had any hope of reducing emissions.
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