Star of the South’s giant wind farm to power 20pc of Victoria
The developers of the $10bn Star of the South wind farm off Victoria’s Gippsland coast plan to supply 20 per cent of the state’s electricity needs once the giant Yallourn coal plant closes, providing a major source of renewable energy as the grid moves away from coal.
Star of the South is an ambitious project which aims to be one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms, powering 1.2 million homes and providing 2200MW of electricity, 50 per cent more capacity than Yallourn, which is due to close in 2028.
Its backers, renewable fund Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, plan the installation of 200 massive wind turbines between 7km to 25km off the state’s south coast in a licence area spanning nearly 500 square kilometres. If the project gets an investment green light by 2025, it aims to start delivering power before the end of the decade.
“If you look at the Yallourn coal power plant in the Latrobe Valley, Star of the South on a yearly basis would be able to match that production because we are producing at times where the wind is very different to other parts of the state,” Star of The South chief executive Casper Frost Thorhauge told The Australian. “So it’s very complementary to that generation profile.”
Power from the project would be sent via subsea cable onshore at Reeves Beach and then travel 75km to Victoria’s Loy Yang coal plant, where there is spare electricity capacity available.
While wind turbines on land still remain a dominant renewable source, offshore wind projects are expected to triple globally this decade with their cost of energy tumbling by two-thirds since 2012 with giant turbines now higher than the Eiffel Tower.
The $8bn to $10bn price-tag for Star of the South signals a new era of mega projects for the clean energy industry as technology improves and the prospect of renewable exports to power hungry consumers in Asia turns into a reality.
“We believe there is going to be a strong market for offshore wind, which has a different generation profile from onshore wind and solar. If you combine those technologies together, you get a diverse generation which makes the whole system more stable and reliable,” Mr Frost Thorhauge said.
More than 2000GW or 40 times the capacity of the national electricity market could potentially be installed within 100km of substations and excluding environmentally restricted and low wind areas, according to the federal government-linked Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre.
More than 10 projects with a combined capacity of 25GW are already in the planning stages in Australia with four new offshore wind zones in Gippsland, the Hunter and Illawarra coasts and northwest Tasmania all considered prime development sites.
South Australia is also looking at its first offshore wind farm, one of a dozen in the planning stages across Australia, with the $1.75bn, 600MW wind farm requiring 40 to 75 turbines measuring up to 260 metres high and creating power for 400,000 homes.
The world’s biggest solar farm worth $22bn and backed by billionaires Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew Forrest recently won major project status from the Morrison government, fast-tracking approval hurdles as it targets exporting electricity from the Northern Territory to Singapore by a subsea cable.
Projects including Star of the South and Sun Cable have also received a boost with federal government backing for the emerging industry.
The federal government legislation introduced on Thursday that aims to unlock investment in offshore energy projects and will establish a framework for the construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of offshore electricity projects.
The interest in offshore wind mirrors a broader transformation of Australia’s power grid expected to pick up pace this decade.
Some 3300MW of new renewables was added in 2020, with the Australian Energy Market Operator stating Australia was undergoing the fastest energy transition in the world due to both rooftop solar and large scale renewables generation.
Nearly half of the capacity of the power grid, some 22GW of coal generation, will close by 2040 requiring 51GW of solar and wind and 15GW of storage to be added in its place, says the Clean Energy Investment Group.
Investors have so far only committed to build 3GW of the 51GW renewable total, sparking concern by green generators, while major power transmission projects must also be built to ensure electricity can be distributed.