Australia Launches Offshore Wind to Move Away From Coal

Australia officially opened its first offshore wind zone off the southern coast of Victoria, as the nation seeks to speed its energy transition away from fossil fuels.

The zone, in the Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania, has the potential to host 10 gigawatts of wind capacity, the equivalent of around five coal plants, the government said Monday in a statement. The Star of the South was also granted major project status in a move to boost the 2.2-gigawatt project’s ability to raise capital.

Australia has been slow in developing its offshore wind sector to replace a fleet of aging coal plants that still provide most of its energy, but the move has hastened under the Labor government elected in May. Global installations are set to jump 10-fold by 2035, and Australia’s high-quality resources could create value as they complement utility-scale solar, according to BloombergNEF.

“We want to see more large-scale projects built in coming years,” Industry Minister Ed Husic said Monday. “This will help integrate Australian manufacturing with renewable energy infrastructure, delivering more jobs in Australian companies.”

All Australia’s existing wind capacity is onshore, and doubts have been raised about the viability of building more expensive offshore projects. But the government of Victoria — a relatively small state with limited onshore wind and solar potential — has put offshore at the top of its priorities as it seeks to get 95% of its power from renewables by 2035.