Wind power generating windmills in the ocean.

UOW researchers provide in-principle support for offshore wind energy in the Illawarra

UOW researchers provide in-principle support for offshore wind energy in the Illawarra

Research group says development of offshore wind must be underpinned by independent and rigorous research

A team of researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW) say they support the development of offshore wind in the Illawarra, provided the developments are done to the highest environmental, social and cultural standards. 

In a submission to the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water by members of UOW’s  Blue Energy Futures Lab and associated academics across all faculties within the University, the researchers said they strongly endorse a rapid movement towards decarbonisation of our current energy base in order to contribute to global efforts to mitigate and address climate change.

Keira Endowed Chair in Energy Futures Associate Professor Michelle Voyer said all parts of Australia need to play their part in this transition and as a region the Illawarra is both well suited, and strongly positioned to play a lead role in this.

“As a research group we are ready to play our part in ensuring that offshore wind, if it is to be developed in our region, can be underpinned by independent and rigorous research,” Associate Professor Voyer said.

“Everyone in our region can benefit from the opportunities this transition can provide and we believe the University has an important role to play in facilitating conversation about how our region can secure the best possible deal for the Illawarra.”

The interdisciplinary research team behind the submission is interested in the emergence of new offshore sustainable industries, including offshore wind. Their research expertise includes law, social sciences, policy, economics, engineering, business, data science and analytics, and marine sciences.

The researchers put forward several priority recommendations for consideration, including:

  • The development of a workforce with the necessary knowledge and skills to drive innovation, research, and implementation;
  • Greater oversight and planning in relation to key aspects of the assessment and approvals process;
  • Broader regional and national scale assessments conducted independently by trusted research institutions, to inform (but not replace) site-specific assessments by developers; 
  • First Nations engagement and partnership should be prioritised to avoid “terra nullius” style assumptions and a coordinated approach to avoid unnecessary consultation burdens on First Nations organisations;
  • Government education, intervention, guidance and regulation to ensure the planning process maximises community benefits.

Energy Network Futures Director Mr Ty Christopher said the team would also like to see a national scale approach to developing the education and skills training required for this emerging industry.

“By identifying gaps in the current workforce, and the strengths of the relevant institutions that exist in the regions in which offshore wind is currently proposed, there is scope to develop a national system of training which works together to supply the future skills needs of the industry in a coordinated and complementary way,” Mr Christopher said.

Mr Christopher acknowledged there are different views in the community about the proposed offshore wind development.

“We understand that there is a lot of uncertainty around the recent proposal to declare the Illawarra as an Offshore Electricity Zone and the benefits and impacts this will have on a local, regional, and national level,” Mr Christopher said.

“We believe this is an opportunity to come together as a community and work on solutions to support the transition to clean energy production.”

More information

To read the full submission please see the Blue Energy Futures Lab website.

A comprehensive FAQ is available here:

About the Blue Energy Futures lab

The Blue Energy Futures Lab is a developing and expanding interdisciplinary research team from the University of Wollongong and beyond, interested in the emergence of new offshore sustainable industries, such as offshore wind.

Our research expertise includes areas such as law, social sciences, policy, economics, engineering, business, and marine sciences.

We recognise that Australia is undertaking an immense task in transitioning to a low carbon economy and that offshore industries (such as wind) will play a critical role in decarbonisation and in the development of future blue economies. We recognise that this is essential in mitigating the impacts of climate change.