Star of The South -  Bringing Offshore wind power, to Victoria -- Offshore, wind turbine power, generated off the Gippsland Coast.
Julia Preston, Community and Communication Manager, Star of the South
Julia was born and raised in Gippsland, and has a strong desire to improve regional communities, especially those experiencing significant change. With over 10 years’ experience in communications  and stakeholder engagement, working within the tertiary, state government, corporate and not-for-profit sectors, Julia values the importance of building and maintaining positive relationships, via open, honest, and transparent communication. Her delivery was on The Star of the South. Bringing Offshore Wind Power to Australia.
Whilst still in the feasibility and planning stage, this is planned to be the first offshore wind project in Australia. Intended to be situated off the Gippsland Coast, it is hoped that it will provide 2.2GW of installed capacity, with up to 200 turbines. An exploration licence was granted in 2019 to progress through full feasibility and local and Government support has been strong. There will be an offshore and onshore transmission system, with connection to the Latrobe Valley.
There are currently about 200GW of offshore wind proposals in the pipeline. This is to capitalise on the strong and consistent winds off the southern coast of Australia. It will also help to reduce the land use conflicts with some other wind farms. Job creation and investment in regional areas is also a significant benefit. Gippsland has powered Victoria for decades through coal and this will permit the continuation of this with clean energy, as the coal plants are taken offline over the next 5-10 years. Julia took us through some graphics showing how such a project comes together, with huge wind turbines,  onshore and offshore substations, enormous  amounts of cabling (75km planned for underground onshore). Whilst current turbine blades reach around 200 metres into the air, it is expected that these will progress to around 350 metres, or the height of Eureka Tower in Melbourne. Specialist vessels and a skilled workforce construct the turbines at sea, although ports are a critical component, given that the turbines are manufactured elsewhere and transported in pieces by ship. Approval is expected within the next year or so, with construction to take another 3-5 years on completion. The useful life of the project is anticipated to be about 30 years. Wind and wave monitoring has been taking place since the 2019 permit, along with community consultation, site investigations, aerial and environmental surveys.
A community advisory group has been established, with 22 members. It is estimated that the investment into Gippsland would be in the order of $4.9 billion, with up to 3000 direct Australian jobs, including 700 local construction jobs and 200 long-term operational jobs. Opportunities will be created to reskill and retrain from declining industries. Engagement is currently taking place with traditional owners, communities, and stakeholders.