The Gippsland region has languished in building wind farms with the relatively small projects at Toora and Wonthaggi. These compared to the farms in the Western District, both in size and number, are insignificant. The generator site rentals there are going a long way to make these farms ‘drought proof’ as well as injecting funds into local communities and helping revive them.
However there is a project on the drawing boards which may help offset this regional disadvantage with a proposal to build a very large offshore wind farm in south Gippsland. Called the ‘Star of the South’ its proponents have pushed the advantages of their plan on their website.
They note that the “Project aims to make a major contribution to lowering Australia’s carbon signature and to assist in the transition from fossil fuel sourced generators, reducing emissions by approximately 10.5 million tonnes of CO₂ per annum and powering over 1.2 million homes” and as such will help the nation meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement.
Importantly they also note that the “Project will see the creation of approximately 12,000 jobs (direct and indirect) during construction and 300 ongoing jobs over its 25-year life. Of the estimated $8 billion to be invested during the development and construction of the Project, approximately half could comprise local content. The Project has the potential to play a major role in transitioning the economy in the Gippsland region (in particular, the Latrobe Valley) and to concurrently provide downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices and improve energy system security and reliability.”
Whilst these employment claims may be on the optimistic side when completed the wind farm will produce as much energy as the now defunct Hazelwood Power station. It will also take advantage of the current infrastructure of the valley and the employment provided will be a major part of the ‘just transition’.
Unfortunately the proposal appears dependant on the assistance and approvals of the Federal government – a government whose record on wind and other types of renewable energy that has been at best abysmal. The State Labor government has been much better in this regard but probably can offer only limited assistance at this time. Although both governments have been willing to push and invest together in such projects as ‘coal to hydrogen’ and ‘carbon capture and storage’ which, as I have pointed out a number of times in this column, are doomed to failure (see here and here).
I have no doubt that this project (or another very like it) will definitely go ahead as the costs of building the offshore wind generators continues to come down and the wind source at sea is more reliable than on land. It is a pity that the benefits of such projects – or the climate emergency – are not recognised. If so this wind farm would be being built right now.