Star of the South news celebrated by big fans

WIND power fans have celebrated news Australia’s first off-shore wind farm – the Star of the South – will proceed to the exploration stage after it was granted a licence from Canberra.

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor on Friday announced he had granted the exploration licence to Offshore Energy for its Star of the South project.

Located off Port Albert, the clean energy initiative could generate 2000 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 1.2 million homes.

Gippsland MHR Darren Chester says he has an ‘open mind’ about the proposed wind farm.

Mr Chester said when he had met with the project proponents he emphasised the need for consultation with local residents and stakeholders.

“Wind turbines on land have proven very divisive in several communities and an offshore project may overcome some of those concerns,” Mr Chester said.

“Similar projects overseas have been successful but it’s important that any impacts on other industries like commercial fishing are fully considered at this early stage.

“The project has the potential to create jobs during construction and ongoing maintenance of the turbines. I certainly support the need to diversify our nation’s energy supply and as I understand this project, an offshore wind farm is forecast to provide a more consistent generating capacity than onshore turbines.”

Gippsland farming leader Alex Arbuthnot has put his support behind the wind farm.

“I support the proposal because I believe it will provide jobs for the Yarram, Port Albert and Sale region,” he said.

“I also support it because Gippsland has a lot of existing power infrastructure, such as powerlines to Melbourne.”

The dairy leader, a Member of the Order of Australia, recipient of the National Farmers’ Federation Award of Honour and a former director of Landcare Australia, was a member of the Victorian Minister’s Climate Change Adaptation Panel and remains on the board of the Gippsland Climate Change Network.

Commenting on regulatory inertia around the proposal, Mr Arbuthnot said “all the usual politics were being played out around energy policy, which is very sad”.

“Good policy based on good data should be the driver,” he said.

Australian Wind Alliance national coordinator Andrew Bray said the proposal was “exceptionally exciting”.

“It marks a shift in understanding across Gippsland as it transitions from coal to clean energy,” he said.

“Gippsland is iconic in the energy industry and this is a watershed moment. It shows maturity, forward vision and the shared responsibility we have in ensuring clean energy for future generations of Australians.”

The licence gives the company permission to assess wind resources and sea-bed conditions off the Gippsland coast to see if the project is technically feasible.

The Australian Wind Alliance is a group of businesses and individuals who support more wind energy for Australia.

Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin said support from all levels of government was needed to help Australia tap into the growing offshore wind sector.

“What we need now is for all levels of government to work together to facilitate the development of this and many more offshore wind projects, allowing us to become a leader in this growth sector,” he said.

“Offshore wind farms will require new port infrastructure, specialised construction vessels, major investment in manufacturing, and improvements to the electricity grid.

“With the right political support that can also be a vital opportunity to provide quality jobs for skilled workers in the coal, oil and gas sectors to transition into.”

Developer Offshore Energy will consult local communities before exploration begins, which is expected be before the end of this year.