Offshore wind turbines could make Australia an energy superpower

Offshore wind farms are an increasingly common sight abroad. But Australia has neglected technology, despite the strong gusts of wind that cover much of our coastline.

New research Reaffirms that Australia ‘s offshore wind resources offer enormous potential for both electricity generation and jobs. In fact, wind conditions off South Australia rival those in the North Sea, between Britain and Europe, where the offshore wind industry is well established.

More than ten offshore wind farms are currently proposed for Australia. If they are built, their combined capacity will be greater than all coal-fired power plants in the country.

Offshore wind projects can bring profitable profits to Australia: creating jobs for fossil fuel workers, replacing energy supplies lost in the closure of coal-fired power plants, and helping Australia become a superpower of renewable energy.

Now is the time

Globally, the wind in the sea is thriving. The United Kingdom plans to quadruple wind capacity to 40 gigawatts (GW) by 2030. enough to power every home in the nation. Other jurisdictions also have ambitious marine wind targets by 2030, including the European Union (60GW), the United States (30GW), South Korea (12GW) and Japan (10GW).

Australia’s coastal waters are relatively deep, which limits the ability to fix wind turbines to the ocean floor. This, combined with Australia’s rich wind and solar energy resources, means that the sea wind is neglected in Australia. energy system planning.

But recent changes create new opportunities for Australia. Developing of larger turbines create economies of scale that reduce technological costs. And floating turbine bases, which can operate in very deep waters, open up access to windier offshore sites.

More than ten offshore wind projects are proposed in Australia. The star of the south, which will be built by Gipsland in Victoria, is the most advanced. Others include the excluded Western Australia,, Tasmania, and Victoria.

Our findings

Our study seeks to explore the potential of offshore wind energy for Australia.

First, we looked at places that are considered feasible for wind projects, namely those that are:

  • less than 100 km from the coast
  • within 100 km of substations and transmission lines (excluding restricted areas)
  • at a water depth below 1000 meters.

The wind resources in these places amount to 2 233 GW capacity and would generate much more than the current and projected electricity demand in Australia.

Second, we considered the so-called. “Capacity factor” – the ratio between the energy that a wind turbine in the sea would generate with the winds available at a given location, relative to the potential maximum power of the turbine.

The best sites were south of Tasmania, with a capacity factor of 80%. The next best sites were in the Bass Strait and near Western Australia and Northern Queensland (55%), followed by South Australia and New South Wales (45%). For comparison, the capacity factor of ground wind turbines it is usually 35-45%.

The average annual wind speeds in the Bass Strait, around Tasmania and along the southwest coast of the continent are equal to those in the North Sea, where sea wind is an established industry. Wind conditions in South Australia are also more favorable than in Eastern China and the Yellow Sea, which are growing regions for commercial wind farms.

Average wind speed (meters per second) from 2010-2019 in the study area per 100 meters. Authors are presented

We then compared marine wind resources on an hourly basis with the production of solar and onshore wind farms in 12 locations in Australia.

At most sites, offshore wind continued to operate at high capacity during periods when onshore winds and solar energy production were low. For example, meteorological data show that the wind on the shores of the Star to the South location is particularly strong on hot days when energy demand is high.

Australia’s coal-fired power plant fleet is aging and the exact date of each facility will retire is unclear. This risks disrupting energy supplies, but onshore wind energy can help mitigate this. A single offshore wind project can be up to five times larger than an onshore wind project.

Some of the best places for sea winds are near the Latrobe Valley in Victoria and the Hunter Valley in NSW. These regions boast a strong electricity grid infrastructure built around coal-fired power plants, and offshore wind projects can be integrated into this through submarine cables.

Building offshore wind can also avoid community planning and opposition conflicts, which sometimes affect the development of renewables on land.

Average global wind speed.
Average global wind speed (meters per second at 100 m level). Image provided by the authors.

The wind of change

Our study found that offshore wind could help Australia become a “superpower” for renewable energy. As Australia seeks to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, sectors such as transport will need increased renewable energy supplies. Clean energy will also be needed to produce hydrogen for export and to produce green steel and aluminum.

Offshore wind can also support “just a transitionIn other words, ensure that fossil fuel workers and their communities are not left behind in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Our study found that offshore winds could create about 8,000 jobs according to the scenario used in our study – almost as many as those employed in the Australian oil and gas sector.

Many skills used in the oil and gas industry, such as those in construction, safety and mechanics, overlap with those needed in offshore wind. Coal workers could be re-employed in offshore wind production, port installation and engineering.

Realizing these opportunities from the windline will take time and proactive policy and planning. Our report includes ten recommendations, including:

  • establishing a regulatory regime in Community waters
  • integrating offshore wind into energy planning and financing innovation
  • further study the profitability of the sector to ensure that Australia is meeting its commitments to good governance sustainable ocean economy.

If we do this right, offshore winds can play a crucial role in Australia’s energy transition.

This article has been republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read on original article. From Sven Teske, Research Director, Institute for a Sustainable Future, Sydney University of Technology; Chris Briggs, Director of Research, Institute for a Sustainable Future, Sydney University of Technology; Mark Hemer, Principal Investigator, Oceans and Atmosphere, CSIRO; Philip Marsh, Postdoctoral student, University of Tasmania, and Rusty Langdon, Research Consultant, Sydney University of Technology

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