Australia Issues First Feasibility Licenses for Offshore Wind Farms

Australia offshore wind
The Bass Strait in the southeast is the focus of the first wind licenses (Star of the South Project)

Published May 3, 2024 3:30 PM by The Maritime Executive


Seeking to catch up with other parts of the developed world, Australia has issued the first of potentially a dozen feasibility licenses that could generate as much as 25 GW of electricity if all are completed. The awarding of the licenses came a year after Australia closed what it reports was a heavily oversubscribed first solicitation which included many of the best-known companies developing offshore wind assets.

Australia adopted a regulatory framework for offshore wind energy at the end of 2021 and designated its first wind zones along the southern coast in 2022 and a third location off the west coast in the Pacific in 2023. A series of projects have long been developing their plans and submitted proposals to the government.

The first solicitation focused on the state of Victoria and supplying power to an industrial region known as Gippsland. The application window was opened in January 2023 and by the time it closed in April 2023, 37 applications had been received for feasibility licenses. The goal had been 600 MW and they received applications for 19 GW.

“Australia’s first offshore wind zone has hit a new milestone,” said Minister of Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen announcing the initial selections on May 1. “Granting feasibility licenses is the next step to helping deliver a new clean energy industry for Australia as well as future proof energy security and reliability for Victoria.”

Six potential projects have been granted or offered the licenses, including Star of the South Wind Farm which was the first proposed in Australia and which is backed by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. Also included is High Seas Wind proposed by EDP Renewables and ENGIE, Ørsted’s Gippsland 1, Blue Mackerel North proposed by Parkwind and Beach Energy, Gippsland Skies, and Kut-Wut Brataualung.

The licenses mean the developers can commence detailed assessments to determine feasibility. This will include environmental assessments, geotechnical surveys, and management plans. If feasibility is proven, the developers can then apply for a commercial license to build an offshore wind project to generate electricity commercially. It is projected that it could require seven years before the first projects would become operational.

The federal government plan is to award six additional licenses from this solicitation. Those would include projects from Iberdola, Ørsted, a second supported by CIP, and others. Additional consultations are required before these feasibility permits are issued, while a preliminary decision was also made that 25 other projects that submitted applications will not proceed at this time.

The state government in Victoria highlights that its goal is to have 2 GW by 2032, 4 GW by 2035, and 9 GW by 2040. The 25 GW proposed by the 12 selected projects would be used to replace coal-fired power but has the potential to cover the Gippsland region’s annual industrial power consumption 100 times over.

Bowen called the first application period a resounding success while also releasing further details on the government’s plans to achieve 32 GW of new renewable power. The government is also a strong supporter of battery projects and solar energy.