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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Matthew Kelly

Why offshore wind might stay away from Port Stephens

Offshore wind farm developers were more interested in working in the southern end of the Hunter zone than the more environmentally sensitive northern end, one industry executive believes.

The declared Hunter Offshore Wind Zone covers 1800 square kilometres from Port Stephens to Swansea.

More than a dozen Australian and international offshore wind companies, including Origin Energy, BlueFloat, Oceanex and Energy Estate, have shown interest in investing in projects off the Hunter coast.

The government is expected to announce a list of preferred bidders for the project in early 2024.

Tensions are running high in the Port Stephens community over concerns about the proposed project's potential impacts on the area's tourism and fishing sectors.

The Hunter Offshore Wind Zone covers 1800 square kilometres from Port Stephens to Swansea.

It resulted in about 1500 people attending a rally to oppose the proposal in Nelson Bay on October 7.

Senior federal Opposition figures have also been actively campaigning against the project over the past month.

But an executive attached to an offshore wind company that has expressed interest in the Hunter zone said it was possible the concern around Port Stephens could end up resolving itself.

This was because most investors preferred the zone's south end due to its proximity to existing transmission infrastructure.

It would also be easier to transport and install turbines in the southern end.

Many of those who attended the October 7 rally complained they were not consulted about the government's plans.

The federal government has refused to reopen the consultation process but insists that communities will have the opportunity to provide more opportunities to provide feedback as the project progresses.

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen will ultimately assess the bids in terms of their environmental and commercial viability before announcing the successful proponents.

The minister will have the right to veto project proposals if they are not deemed to be environmentally sustainable.

Meanwhile, supporters of a future Hunter offshore wind industry point to its potential to create 3000 construction and 1500 ongoing jobs in clean energy manufacturing across the Lower Hunter.

EnergyAustralia last week announced plans to help coal plant workers transition from jobs at its Yallourn power station - due to retire in 2028 - to the Elanora Offshore wind farm project, proposed for off the coast of Victoria.

It is estimated that the proposed Elanora project has promised to create more than 3000 jobs during the construction phase and 320 jobs during operations.

A future Hunter offshore wind project would also play a key role in assisting Hunter industry to transition to clean energy.

Tomago Aluminum, the state's largest user of electricity, is seeking to partner with renewable energy providers so it can achieve its goal of running on clean energy by the end of the decade.

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