In a welcome move, the federal government has declared the Hunter offshore wind zone in New South Wales. Friends of the Earth (FoE) has been campaigning for years for governments to get on with facilitating the development of offshore wind, and the creation of designated zones for development is an important step in the process of seeing wind farms built. With a zone already declared in Gippsland, and one expected in the Illawarra, the industry will play a key role in decarbonising the grid while creating new jobs for coal regions like the Hunter, Wollongong and the Latrobe Valley.
A number of projects are proposed for the Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone, which was announced by the federal Energy minister, Chris Bowen, in February this year.
The Hunter zone is noticeably smaller than the Gippsland offshore wind zone. Demands from the Australian military is emerging as one of the key threats to Australia's offshore wind industry. In the Hunter it's about access to airspace. In the Illawarra it's the proposed nuclear subs base which is connected to the AUKUS agreement.
As was reported in the Saturday Paper:
Offshore wind could play a crucial role in decarbonising Australia’s largest coal port, powering new manufacturing industries and meeting Australia’s climate goals. There is a stumbling block, however: the Department of Defence has demanded a 46-kilometre exclusion zone around the Williamtown air base, just north of Newcastle, which houses most of the RAAF’s F-35A Joint Strike Fighters.
FoE supports a strong assessment process to ensure projects do not have unacceptable impacts on marine environments and the animals that rely on them like whales. We also support deep engagement with the relevant traditional owner group. We can see the enormous benefits attached to the rapid development of an offshore wind industry. To give one example, the Star of the South project proposed for Gippsland is expected to create up to 2,000 direct jobs in Victoria over its lifetime, including 760 Gippsland jobs during construction and 200 ongoing local jobs once it’s up and running. The project would invest around $8.7 billion in Victoria over its lifetime, including an estimated $6.4 billion direct boost to Gippsland’s economy. It will be able to power up to 1.2 million homes and provide up to 20% of Victoria’s electricity needs.