Spain’s BlueFloat plans 4.3 GW of Australian offshore wind projects, with more to come

Australia’s push into offshore wind projects is set to accelerate, with Spain’s BlueFloat Energy and Australian Energy Estate announcing plans to partner to develop at least 4,300 MW of wind capacity offshore in Australian waters.

The partners announced on Wednesday that projects are on offer in two of New South Wales’ major industrial centers, including a 1.4 GW floating wind farm off the coast of the Hunter region and a 1.6 GW project. GW off Wollongong.

The partnership will also develop a 1.3 GW project – using technologies fixed to the bottom – off the coast of the Gippsland region in Victoria.

The Spanish company BlueFloat is already developing several European offshore wind projects, notably off Spain, Portugal, Italy and Scotland, and has specialized in the deployment of floating offshore projects.

The first project of the partnership will be the Greater Gippsland Offshore wind project located in the Bass Strait. The project will aim to replace renewable energy from lignite-fired power plants in the region which are expected to close and take advantage of the electricity grid infrastructure established in the region.

The Hunter Coast Offshore Wind Project will be located in a proposed renewable energy area and will aim to support the exit of aging black coal generators in the region and provide electricity to major energy users like the aluminum smelter. Tomago.

Likewise, the Wollongong offshore wind project will be located at two sites off the coast of the Illawarra industrial zone and could eventually provide renewable electricity for hydrogen production and metal processing in the area. .

Additional projects off the coasts of Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria are also underway, with partners expecting to announce further details in early 2022.

BlueFloat is a relatively new company, formed over the past 18 months with backing from US firm 547 Energy – itself the renewable energy investment wing of the US $ 17 billion private equity firm. (AU $ 24 billion) Quantum Energy Partners – and has brought together several experienced personnel in offshore wind developments.

BlueFloat’s newly appointed Australian director, former Commonwealth Bank global project finance director Nick Sankey, said the recent passage of federal legislation that lifted an effective ban on Australian offshore wind projects had facilitated the company’s entry into the Australian market.

“The timing of our announcement comes just after the Australian Federal Government has passed legislation that provides a framework for the development of offshore wind projects here,” Sankey said.

“This is a crucial step as the 2021 Offshore Power Infrastructure Bill establishes a regulatory scaffolding to enable the construction, installation, commissioning, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of offshore electrical infrastructure. “

Sankey told RenewEconomy that the company sees value in seizing the “first-mover” advantage in offshore wind farm development, and BlueFloat would look to leverage its previous experience in Europe to build some of the first in Australian waters.

Sankey added that the company was aware of previously announced offshore wind projects under review in Australia – such as the 2,200 MW Star of the South project also proposed for the Gippsland region – and that it sees opportunities for further development. improve the value of projects by building a common infrastructure. , such as transmission network links, which could support multiple projects.

See the recently updated map of RenewEconomy’s offshore wind farms in Australia here

The Australian wind industry has so far focused entirely on developing onshore projects, given the abundance of suitable onshore sites with good wind availability which make projects easier to build.

The development of offshore wind projects has advantages, which can achieve much higher yields and capacity factors by deploying larger turbines in areas with strong ocean winds.

While no offshore wind projects have yet been built in Australian waters, there is a growing list of projects joining the development pipeline.

BlueFloat and Energy Estate said they share the “same philosophy” when it comes to project development, including recognizing the need to engage with First Nations groups and local communities and supporting their active participation in the project. development of offshore wind projects.

Energy Estate’s Director of Engagement Rosie King said the key to the partnership’s success will be the two companies’ continued engagement with local communities and governments.

“The set of shared values ​​of BlueFloat Energy and Energy Estate includes taking active steps to support training and promote opportunities for workers to access new roles that will be created by the offshore wind industry,” said King said.

“We believe that the best results for stakeholders and local communities will be achieved if governments and industry work together from the start. Change can be seen as destabilizing, but not if it is managed properly through open engagement with those affected.