UNDERWATER investigations are beginning on Australia’s first offshore wind project, the Star of the South, off the Gippsland coast.
Seabed and marine mammal studies are part of a program of site investigations, which are helping to understand the site conditions and plan for an offshore wind farm, connecting into the Latrobe Valley.
Specialists have been deployed from Lakes Entrance to study the seabed using the local vessel the Silver Star.
Over two weeks, a crew will complete 24-hour seabed investigations including, mapping the seafloor, measuring water depths and identifying any buried infrastructure such as cables or shipwrecks.
Data collected from these studies will help determine the type of support structures needed for the wind turbines.
Acoustic monitoring is also being undertaken to understand the number and type of marine mammals in and around the project area.
Equipment similar to microphones is on the seabed floor recording the sounds of marine mammals such as whales and dolphins, capturing sounds up to 20 kilometres away.
To complement the acoustic monitoring, aerial surveys of the project area are underway to visually identify marine mammals.
Aerial bird surveys are also being undertaken by a light plane off the coast near Port Albert to identify the number and type of birds in the area seasonally.
This data is being supported by migratory bird tagging to understand the flight paths of various species.
Onshore bird surveys began last month, and involve tagging and counting birds in the dunes. Soil testing is also underway to understand the local ground conditions.
Wind and wave monitoring equipment has been out at sea since November, collecting data on the wind profile and wave conditions, and will continue for several years to inform the wind farm design.
Proponents say like a power station out at sea, the Star of the South would involve wind turbines in the ocean generating electricity and connecting into the grid in the Latrobe Valley via underground cables and substations.
They say has the potential to power up to 2000 megawatts of electricity, providing a consistent and reliable source of energy and powering hundreds of thousands of Victorian homes.
Star of the South chief development officer Erin Coldham said underwater investigations would collect important data to help inform the wind farm design, including the number and type of wind turbines.
“Mapping the seabed and collecting baseline information on the ground conditions is an important part of understanding the site and planning for an offshore wind project off the south coast of Gippsland,” she said.
“The Star of the South would provide a reliable and consistent source of power, supplying around 18 per cent of Victoria’s electricity needs and helping to prevent blackouts in summer.
“Offshore wind is a proven technology in Europe where there is a booming industry.
“We’re excited about the opportunities the Star of the South could create for jobs and investment in the Gippsland region and broader economy.”