Plans for Australia's first offshore wind farm have taken a step forward, with the project developers launching a labour market study to identify the capability of the Australian market to deliver what would be one of Australia's largest renewable energy projects.
The Star of the South wind farm, which is being pursued by the Danish fund management company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners would be the first offshore wind farm in the southern hemisphere, requiring the first of its kind deployment of wind turbines off the Victorian coast.
The project proposed off the Gippsland coast in the south of Victoria has a planned capacity of up to 2,200MW and would be expected to produce roughly the same amount of energy each year as the now de-commissioned Hazelwood brown-coal power station.
In undertaking the labour market study, the project will examine the skills and workforce requirements needed to complete the project, including the availability of specialised vessels required to provide both construction and maintenance services to the offshore wind turbines.
Star of the South says there is likely to be a need to facilitate the training of local workers in the skills required to deploy and maintain offshore wind turbines, given it is the first of its type for the country. Likewise, the study will identify the need to procure new dedicated vessels that may be required to support the project.
The study will be completed by Atlas Professionals, an HR service provider with previous experience in advising the delivery of offshore projects through Europe.
'We are excited to work together with Star of the South and be part of the development of Australia's first offshore wind project. Since starting our renewable energy activities earlier this year, we have managed to get engagements in Australia, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan,” Atlas Professionals' regional director of renewables Edgare Kerkwijk said.
“This is evidence that the regional offshore wind market is growing rapidly, and the need for skilled manpower is growing equally fast.'
The Federal government granted the project approvals to commence site exploration back in March
, allowing the wind farm developers to identify optimal siting for wind turbines off the Gippsland coast, with the local community being engaged in consultation for possible locations.
While Australia has good availability of high-quality wind resources, the first offshore wind farm would provide an opportunity to develop a project at a size and scale that has not been seen in on-shore projects in Australia.
GE Renewable Energy successfully deployed a new record-setting 12MW offshore wind turbine
in the Netherlands last month, with the turbine standing 260 metres tall, and sporting 107 metre-long blades, that is expected to go into commercial production after a period of testing in 2021.
The proposed 250 wind turbine project, with an expected investment value of around $8 billion
, would see some of the world's largest wind turbine designs deployed in Australia for the first time.
With proximity to Victoria's Latrobe Valley, the project would have the ability to tap into the existing transmission infrastructure that exists in the region, with an undersea cable planned for linking the offshore turbines to the mainland.
Progress for the project comes as an AEMO report highlights
the “unprecedented change” underway in the Victorian energy system, as the State's generation base shifts from east to west, as large brown coal generators in the Latrobe Valley reach the end of their operating life, and the development of renewable energy projects occurs in the west.
A large wind farm development that can utilise the existing transmission network infrastructure in the Latrobe Valley would be an attractive option for replacing Victoria's ageing fleet with new renewable energy generation capacity.
Michael Mazengarb is a journalist with RenewEconomy, based in Sydney. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in the renewable energy sector for more than a decade.