The Hunter is ready to kickstart the offshore wind revolution

Post No. 11 'The Hunter is ready to kickstart the offshore wind revolution' was published on 04 September, 2021.

The federal government is seeking to legalise the offshore wind industry in Commonwealth waters.

Australia is yet to capitalise on significant offshore wind capacity despite the International Energy Agency nominating it as one of the “big three” likely sources of renewable energy globally alongside solar and onshore wind.

The federal government’s new bill will open Australia to global investment in offshore wind farms, with thousands of jobs expected to flow into industrial towns facing an uncertain future as manufacturing continues to decline. These projects will provide cheap, clean energy for existing manufacturing and attract private investment in new export industries such as hydrogen and local wind turbine manufacturing. It is disappointing how long it has taken the government to capitalise on this untapped potential but I am glad we have made it here in the end.

This presents a unique opportunity for the Hunter Valley which has been identified by the Australian Energy Market Operator as a one of four precincts on Australia’s east coast that would be capable of generating 10 gigawatts of electricity from offshore wind farming. The total generation capacity of Australia’s east coast electricity market is currently 55 gigawatts, about 70 percent of which comes from coal, so 40 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity would go a long way to pushing us towards 100% clean energy. The Hunter has been found to be particularly suitable as the region is close to existing transmission grids and has strong offshore winds at times when solar and onshore wind output is limited.

Offshore wind means onshore jobs as it’s cheaper to build the massive turbines close by rather than transport them from other locations. The projects also require many of the skills that workers in fossil fuel industries already have and thus building them in places where workers have those skills should be a priority. This means a Newcastle offshore wind farm could be the kickstart we need for a green industrial rebirth in the Hunter Valley. A recent economic analysis by Beyond Zero Emissions said Newcastle, with its deepwater port, skilled workforce and existing industrial infrastructure could attract $28 billion in capital investment to the region, generate $11 billion in revenue by 2032 and create 34,000 jobs.

Offshore generation and transmission will deliver a more secure and reliable electricity system and create thousands of jobs and business opportunities in regional Australia. In light of the rapidly declining coal sector due to shrinking global demand for thermal coal, the Hunter Valley must be made a priority for offshore wind by the government.

US President Joe Biden has announced plans for 30 gigawatts of offshore wind generation by 2030. The United Kingdom already has 10 gigawatts of offshore wind generation in the North Sea and plans to reach 40 gigawatts in the coming decade. The International Energy Agency expects offshore wind farming to grow into a trillion-dollar industry over the next 20 years. It’s time for Australia to join the rest of the world in unlocking the untapped potential of offshore wind capacity, and the Hunter Valley is the perfect place to start the revolution.