When did electricity come to Australia?

2019 was a milestone for Australia's energy transition. Now they want to expand offshore wind energy

Australia's renewable energies had a record year in 2019 - both in terms of capacity expansion and electricity production. In September the government announced that the country had achieved its 2001 target of 33 terawatt hours (TWh) of annual renewable electricity generation a full year ahead of schedule.

And this year the expansion is going on cheerfully: with eleven gigawatts that are under construction or at least financed, the expansion in 2020 could once again exceed the record of the previous year.

New Horizons

Last year, according to the Australian industry association, 24 percent of electricity came from renewable energy - mainly from wind, water and solar power. With 6,279 gigawatts (GW) of generation capacity, wind was the largest green power source for the first time last year. So far, however, the turbines have only been on land. And so offshore wind power is perhaps Australia's largest untapped energy source. You just might not have a solution for that sporadic gas shortages in the south-east of the country but also make it possible to dispense with coal power.

With a population of 25 million and twice the size of India, Australia has such a potential energy surplus that it is considering exporting green electricity and hydrogen. The development of offshore wind power could be a step in this direction. But it would be favorable for Australia even without this, because 85 percent of the population live less than 50 kilometers away from the coast.

Star of the south

The first major project is to be built off the coast of the Gippsland region in the southwest. With 574 turbines, the “Star of the South” will achieve a capacity of 2.2 GW, cost eight to ten billion Australian dollars (AUD) and generate around eight terawatt hours of electricity per year. That would be around 18 percent of the electricity needs of the state of Victoria, in whose shallow waters it is supposed to stand.

The grid connection is to take place via the Latrobe Valley a little inland. So it could supply the local industry, but also the consumption centers of Victoria with green electricity. The lignite region largely covers the electricity needs of the state with its five million capital Melbourne.

Immense potential

The “star of the south” could just be the beginning of offshore wind power down under. In its Offshore Wind Outlook 2019, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates Australia's technical potential at 16,132 TWh per year. That is 44 percent of the estimated energy needs of the European Union and the United Kingdom combined. And it's 70 times Australia's electricity production last year. The shallow waters near the coast alone offer space and wind for more than 4,000 TWh per year.

The timing would also be good: After the Covid 19 crisis, investments are needed. In addition, thanks to advances in Northern Europe, the cost of offshore wind power fell significantly last year - by a whopping 32 percent, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. 50 US dollars per megawatt hour are possible. This would enable it to compete with onshore wind power and would undercut almost all conventional new power plants. Last but not least, Australia could benefit from the fact that the industry is also growing in China, Taiwan and Japan.

Network integration already under construction

The not always easy integration of renewable energies is also well on the way in Australia. New transmission routes are planned and 15 large-scale battery storage systems have been under construction since 2019. New South Wales wants to stimulate the economy after the Corona crisis with the construction of a pumped storage power plant with 3.5 TWh storage capacity. With its output of two gigawatts, according to the planners, it could supply three million households for a week.

The pump storage on the island of Tasmania is to be further expanded as part of the “Battery of the Nation” project and connected to the mainland via a 1.5 GW cable.

Green export products

Project developers are already figuring out ways to monetize Australia's immense surplus of resources. A ten GW solar storage park is to be built in the Northern Territory for AUD 20 billion. Its storage capacity of 20 to 30 GWh could largely maintain the power supply overnight. Most of the electricity, however, is to be exported 4500 kilometers to Singapore via an undersea cable.

Another export medium could be hydrogen. The Energy Council of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), in which the federal and state governments meet, and the states of Southern and Western Australia for themselves have presented hydrogen strategies. The exports could at least partially replace the current exports of natural gas and coal. According to COAG estimates, Australia could earn up to A $ 26 billion in 2050.

The element is considered to be CO2-lower energy source if it is with CO2-Storage is obtained from natural gas or from water using sustainable electrolysis. That would, in turn, require a lot of renewable electricity - from whatever source.

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