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Australian wind power: What does the future look like?

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Despite the current pandemic putting a dampener on the global economy and slowing down progress across multiple industries, the good news is that renewable energy is still a priority in Australia as the country moves forward with its wind power projects.

Read on as we take a look at what’s in store for the future of Australia’s wind power.

Tens of gigawatts of additional wind energy can, and should, be added in Australia

There is a massive opportunity for the industry over the next 30 years to continue to deploy many thousands of megawatts of wind and other technology.

As turbines go higher to capture higher wind speeds and come with longer blades to generate more energy, sites in New South Wales and Queensland that would have been deemed uneconomic only a few years ago, are now as competitive as some of the older sites in South Australia and western Victoria.

New technology is leading the way

New technology is now capable of about 10 times the output of units at some projects that are up to 20 years old – for example 6MW-plus generation with rotor sizes up to 170 metres. The amount of energy that can be captured and produced on a per-turbine bases has massively increased.

Ten years ago, a viable site would have had a wind speed of around 8.5 metres per second, but now wind farms with a 7.5 m/s average wind speed or lower is becoming viable in places like NSW.

What can we expect to see in the next 20 years?

It’s well-known that wind projects involve long lead times, so it makes sense that wind power companies will return to the best locations for wind within the next 20 years. We can expect to see ‘repowering’ at plants which have already been built, where existing turbines will be replaced with vastly more powerful machinery – and this is already underway in Europe.

As technology has developed, much lower wind speeds can now be captured, whereas in the past, the location of wind farms would have been very much dependent on the best wind resources available. Given that lower speeds can now be captured, the number of places across Australia where you can put wind farms has increased massively.

As an example, parts of New South Wales and Queensland that would have been out of bounds just five years ago are now included on lists of now-viable locations for large installations.

The earliest Australian wind farms were implemented in the windiest spots, so if there’s now the option of repowering them and harnessing more wind power, then they can use the grid connections which are often the most valuable parts of a project.

Looking offshore

Researchers are now at work off the coast of Victoria, scouring the environments for data to help Star of the South put together a proposal for up to 2GW of offshore wind power.

The site for Star of the South has been chosen for its strong wind, which whips through the Bass Strait off the coast of Gippsland, and this is one of the bonuses of implementing an offshore plant – it can be larger than an onshore wind farm due to the fact that the company don’t have to negotiate with landowners.

If the site investigation shows the project is feasible and it then progresses through environmental and planning approvals, developers hope to begin construction in the mid 2020-s, possibly as early as 2023.

While it’s still early days for the project, there’s great potential to kick-start a booming offshore wind industry in Australia, as opportunities for local jobs and investment will arise.


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