The Federal Government has blocked part of a development proposal for Australia’s first offshore wind farm over environmental concerns.
The Victorian Government had planned to build a port and warehouse facility to support a renewable wind farm, off the southeast coast of Victoria.
However, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has rejected the proposed terminal. She cited concerns of an “unavoidable” impact on environmentally-protected waterways and native species.
First, wind farms
Offshore wind farms are built in oceans or large bodies of water. They work by converting energy from strong winds into electricity.
They generate more electricity than onshore wind farms because winds over water are typically stronger and more constant.
Wind farms are also more effective offshore than on land because they use larger and more powerful turbines (machines with rotor blades that capture the wind’s energy).
Offshore wind energy technology has been used around the world since the 1990s and early 2000s in countries like Denmark and the UK.
The Victorian Government said it wants to develop offshore wind farms as part of its transition to renewable energy sources.
Last year, it announced plans for the Victorian Renewable Energy Terminal at the Port of Hastings. However, the proposal needed Federal Government approval before it could go ahead.
The location of the port for the wind farm (off the coast of southern Victoria) was chosen to allow ships easy access to proposed wind farms.
However, it included an area covering three marine national parks and Ramsar wetlands – a classification given to sites deemed “important for conserving biological diversity”.
Construction of the wind farm port would require dredging (removing) sediment (sand and silt) while also clearing vegetation on land.
The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water rejected the plans last month. It argued building and operating the site would cause ecological harm.
Plibersek said construction of the terminal would “destroy” or “substantially modify” the protected wetlands, and concluded the proposal was “clearly unacceptable”.
She added that the site risked harming “critical” marine species and key habitats for migratory birds.
Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan said the State Government was “unhappy” with the decision, “particularly because the Federal Government itself has set very strong renewable energy targets and we have strong renewable energy targets”.
Allan said her government will review Plibersek’s decision and consider its options. Hastings is listed as the Government’s preferred primary port, and it’s looking into secondary port options in Geelong and northern Tasmania.