Australia’s first offshore wind farm off the eastern coast of Victoria could provide almost a fifth of the state’s energy.
The proposed plant would see 250 turbines built off the Gippsland coastline and produce enough energy to power 1.2 million homes.
Offshore Energy says the project could bring $8 billion worth of investment into Victoria and create 12,000 jobs during the construction phase, with local campaigners hoping recently retrenched coal workers can be retrained.
Managing director Andy Evans says the wind farm could reduce carbon emissions by 10.5 million tonnes a year.
“When placed in the right wind conditions, like those off the coast of Gippsland, offshore wind delivers a high, consistent flow of electricity,” Mr Evans said in a statement on Friday.
The feasibility phase is expected to take three years, the company says.
Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio says a preliminary analysis of the proposed site is promising.
“This is a massive project. It’s an exciting project; it is unprecedented and one that our government supports and we’ll continue to work alongside Offshore Energy to work through all of the planning requirements,” Ms D’Ambrosio told reporters on Friday.
Gippsland has been hit hard by job cuts with the closure of the Hazelwood coal-fired power station, and Environmental Justice Australia lawyer, Bronya Lipski, says coal workers could move to the renewable energy sector.
“In Wyoming, in the USA, a wind farm manufacturer recently jumped at the opportunity to retrain former coal workers to take advantage of their electrical and mechanical expertise,” Ms Lipski said.
“There is no reason why this can’t happen for Latrobe Valley workers.”
The government hopes the project will be generating power in time to contribute to its renewable energy target of 40 per cent by 2025.
Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber says the plan has the potential to “displace highly polluting brown coal generators from Victoria’s electricity grid”.
But Mark Wakeham from Environment Victoria cautioned it will have to prove it doesn’t impact marine life.