Helping to Shape Regulations for the Australian Offshore Wind Industry

As the global demand for energy continues to grow, so too does the need for renewable energy sources. In recent times, we have seen a growing trend in offshore wind farms.

According to a recent report conducted by Global Industry Analysis, the compound annual growth rate for offshore wind farms around the world is estimated at 25 per cent annually up to 2024. 


The Transition Has Already Begun

Offshore wind farms involve the installation of Wind Turbine Generators (WTG’s) in the ocean connected through a series of complex electrical networks delivering power back to land to then be distributed. Whilst some regions around the globe have been driving investment into offshore wind, there have been limitations, largely related to cost, preventing its growth. 


However, the rapid development of new technologies and particularly larger WTG’s are making offshore wind more affordable. Policy-makers and governments around the world are taking innovative steps to help foster the development of this renewable energy source. 


In March this year, the world’s largest offshore wind generator, the United Kingdom, announced plans to produce 30 per cent of its overall energy mix from offshore wind by 2030 up from 17 per cent in 2018. The United States announced plans to increase its offshore wind generation from 2GW to 20GW by 2030. Remarkably, the total offshore wind capacity in the US is estimated at over 2,000GW.


However, these projects are tiny in comparison to what Asia has committed to. 


By 2030, China is expected to increase its capacity by 15 times. In 2018, China was responsible for half of the world’s investment into offshore wind, totalling more than USD12 billion. South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and India have outlined their own ambitious plans, committing to generate a cumulative 100GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030. 


Further, according to estimates from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the total investment around the world in offshore wind could reach USD350 billion by 2030 and USD1.47 trillion by 2050.


Globally, WSP is active in the offshore wind farm industry with experience spanning the UK, US and Australia. 


Offshore Wind is on Australia’s Agenda

Australia’s first offshore wind farm was announced in 2012. To be located off the coast of Victoria in the Gippsland region, the project is set to generate around 20 per cent of Victoria’s power supply, reducing carbon emissions and creating a sustainable energy source.


“WSP has been a foundation Partner on Australia’s first offshore wind farm. Since 2015, WSP has assisted with pre-feasibility and the first exploration licence process”, says Sean Myers, WSP Technical Executive for Environmental Services. “As a foundation partner, we have provided turnkey project management, environment, planning and environmental engineering services for the project”.


Sean adds, “This project is setting the standard for the Australian renewables sector. As an economy that is largely reliant on fossil fuels, it is important we embrace these emerging energy sources to ensure a reliable and clean energy future.”


Regulatory Frameworks are Needed

Through working on Australia’s first offshore wind farm project, our team has been actively involved in the local development of the industry,” explains Sean. “With so much investment happening around the world, the Australian industry is working cooperatively with all levels of government in the formation of regulation to help guide this emerging sector. 


“Admittedly offshore wind farms are a new frontier for Australia, however, it is important that we learn from what has evolved internationally and form the regulatory landscape promptly for our domestic market so that we can fast-forward our progress in this space. We are clearly at a point where offshore wind is a viable option capable of making a tangible difference to Australia’s power mix.”


Over the last four years, WSP has been at the forefront of this new regulatory process working with industry, state and commonwealth government regulators to help lay the foundations for the development of a new framework. 


However, offshore wind farm projects are complex. With each offshore project comprising both offshore and onshore components, regulatory frameworks are complicated. Both components are governed by a distinct suite of state and federal environmental and planning legislation and regulatory requirements, each with unique stakeholders and environmental issues. 
Sean concludes, “WSP has been involved as a key partner in navigating this new environmental regulatory process and has been assisting with obtaining Australia’s first exploration licence for the offshore wind farm industry. We are pleased to be part of this new direction for sustainable energy projects in Australia, as this new delivery approach for the offshore wind farm industry is helping to create a truly sustainable energy solution for Australia.”


For more information on WSP’s involvement in Australia’s first offshore wind farm project, please click here.


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