LAST week saw a flurry of activity in Gippsland with 30 of the Star of the South’s team taking part in a team building exercise in Corner Inlet, Yarram and Traralgon before CEO Casper Frost Thorhauge and Chief Development Officer Erin Coldham headed off to Lakes Entrance where underwater investigations with specialists studying the seabed were kicked off using local vessel the Silver Star.
“Offshore wind is a proven technology in Europe where there is a booming industry and we’re excited about the opportunities the Star of the South could create for jobs and investment in the Gippsland region and broader economy,” Erin said.
The 30 Star of the South team members already employed boarded a bus in Melbourne on Wednesday March 4 and travelled down to get to know the area where it is all happening.
Their first stop was at Latte Dah Cafe in Toora where owner Nancy Lawrence treated them to a delicious morning tea.
They then walked the Long Jetty at Port Welshpool where Project Manager Adam Neville spoke to them about the jetty’s restoration.
Port Albert resident Marcus McKenzie then gave a very interesting tour around the Alberton Cemetery followed by a talk by local fisherman Damien Knibbs at Port Albert.
Owners of the Bull Bar & Gallery Robert and Renae Long then played host serving pizzas, dessert and local wines and beers with live music provided by Elixer Blues.
The next day of team building was spent in Traralgon and then it was time to head to Lakes Entrance where underwater investigations were launched.
Over two weeks, a crew will complete 24hour seabed investigations including mapping the seafloor, measuring water depths and identifying any buried infrastructure such as cables or shipwrecks.
Data collected from these studies will help determine the type of support structures needed for the wind turbines.
Acoustic monitoring is also being undertaken to understand the number and type of marine mammals in and around the project area. Equipment that is similar to a microphone is on the seabed floor recording the sounds of marine mammals such as whales and dolphins capturing sounds up to 20 kilometres away.
To complement the acoustic monitoring, aerial surveys of the project area are underway to visually identify marine mammals.
Aerial bird surveys are also being undertaken by flying a light plane off the coast near Port Albert to identify the number and type of birds in the area seasonally. This data is being supported by migratory bird tagging to understand the flightpaths of various species.
Onshore bird surveys started last month and involve tagging and counting birds in the dunes.
Soil testing is also underway to understand the local ground conditions.
Wind and wave monitoring equipment has been out at sea since November 2019 collecting data on the wind profile and wave conditions and will continue for several years to inform the wind farm design.
Like a power station out at sea, the Star of the South would involve wind turbines in the ocean generating electricity and connecting into the grid in the Latrobe Valley via underground cables and substations.
It has the potential to power up to 2000MW of electricity, providing a consistent and reliable source of energy and powering hundreds of thousands of Victorian homes.
Erin Coldham said that mapping the seabed and collecting baseline information on the ground conditions is an important part of understanding the site and planning for an offshore wind project off the south coast of Gippsland and The Star of the South would provide a reliable and consistent source of power, supplying around 18% of Victoria’s electricity needs and helping to prevent blackouts in summer.
“The Star of the South will be opening an office in Yarram this month and will also be holding community consultation meetings in Port Franklin, Port Albert, Woodside, Morwell and Sale later in April,” she said.