Star of the South Community Consultation at Lakes

I attended the Star of the South Community Consultation at Lakes Entrance on Friday – the second in a round of consultations being held across Gippsland. Around 60 people attended in one of the Central Hotel’s small meeting rooms including a number of professional fisherman. A brief video was accompanied by slides and a talk by one of the founders to complement the displays around the room. 

The Gippsland offshore location has been chosen as the best site around Australia with access to the infrastructure of the Latrobe Valley and suitable depths for the generator towers to be set on the ocean floor.

Currently the project only has an exploration licence for five to seven years for a variety of lengthy onsite investigations and envisages producing 2,200 megawatts of power with 220 10mw turbines when completed. The first electricity is planned to come online in 2025 and be in full production by 2037 to replace the ageing Yallourn generator scheduled for closure that year. However the climate emergency will probably bring this date forward well into the 2020s and the meeting noted that the generator operators only have to give 3 years notice of closure. Some of the other benefits to the local community were mentioned – specifically employment and local manufacturing.

A recent Yes 2 Renewables (Y2R) article recently stated: “Victoria is already home to one wind tower manufacturer Keppel Prince in Portland in the state’s west – the creation of an offshore wind sector could mean a second. This represents an opportunity to create good climate jobs while doing a heavy lift on cutting emissions. Proposed in waters directly east of Port Albert about one hour drive from the Latrobe Valley, home to the country’s most polluting brown coal fired power stations, the Star of the South represents an opportunity for the region to prosper as Victoria moves towards a zero-carbon economy.”

The real benefit of renewables and climate change – abating our greenhouse gas emissions – was not mentioned once and even the term ‘renewable energy’ was used only briefly. The Y2R article noted “If we’re going to prevent the worst possible impacts of the climate crisis – from extreme drought to more frequent bushfires and sea level rise – it’s vital we embrace solutions that match the scale of the problem. Offshore wind is one of those solutions, and could create thousands of good climate jobs. Gippsland has long played a role in generating Victoria’s electricity. Embracing offshore wind would mean that tradition continues into the future as the state transitions to a zero-carbon economy”.

With the possibility of an early Yallourn closure looming large there are only two proposals that I am aware of that can replace it – the Star of the South Offshore wind project and Paul Treasure’s Pumped Hydro project for the Thompson Dam. The latter remains a proposal on paper. Since both will eventually be needed it is essential that they are fast tracked and given all the help governments can provide. In particular negotiating their way through the myriad of molehills put up by State and Federal bureaucracies. At least with the Star of the South the ball is already rolling!

Star of the South website here .