Wind farm could power Portland aluminum smelter

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $1.5 million in funding to Spinifex Offshore Wind Farm to back its study the potential for a 1,000 MW offshore wind farm project off the coast of Portland, Victoria to power the local smelter.

Spinifex, a subsidiary of Alinta Energy, will conduct a wind resource assessment and accelerate early stage development activities leading to the wind farm’s construction.

The offshore wind farm would to be connected to the National Electricity Market (NEM) via the existing substation, immediately turning one of Australia’s biggest carbon polluters into a green industry icon.

It would also lay to rest decades of controversy over electricity currently supplied from Victoria’s brown coal fields, which is subsidised by the Victorian government.

The smelter has capacity to produce approximately 358,000 tonnes of aluminium per annum – more than 20% of national aluminium production – and represents approximately 10 per cent of Victoria’s total electrical demand.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the project was the first to directly integrate variable renewable energy with an aluminium smelter, supporting the transition to low emissions metals.

Miller said: “Metals production, especially aluminium, represents one of Australia’s most energy intensive industries.

“We have a real need to help reduce emissions from smelters, which require a steady and sizeable supply of electricity to operate. Offshore wind could be a potential part of the solution space to this problem.”

“Further, the early stage wind resource assessment of the Spinifex project will provide the industry with valuable insights regarding commercial, technical and regulatory aspects of offshore wind developments in Australia.

This $3.47 million project is phase 1 of Spinifex’s proposed development pathway for the wind farm and aims to improve understanding of its commercial viability.

The project includes scope to procure and deploy land-based Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) equipment to validate the wind resources at the proposed Portland site.

Spinifex will also conduct stakeholder and community consultation activities and begin scoping activities for relevant planning and environmental studies required under the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021.

The development of offshore wind farms internationally has accelerated over the past decade.

Offshore wind farms benefit from higher capacity factors, increased turbine size and efficiency, as well as an increased site availability by avoiding onshore land constraints.

The Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021 commenced on June 2. There are currently over 20 offshore wind projects in early stages of development in Australia.

Alinta Energy CEO Jeff Dimery said: “Spinifex has terrific potential because the region has strong wind and the project has a ready-made grid connection point, a potential customer, a port, and suitable topography. Given the offshore wind industry is in its infancy, the support from ARENA will be critical to reaching the next stage,” he said.

Picture: ARENA/Portland smelter

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