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Protecting the environment

A healthy environment is vital to Victoria’s liveability and sustainability. It provides clean water and air, habitats for species, and is fundamental to many of Victoria's regional industries such as agriculture, tourism and fishing.

That's why we are working with regulators and experts, Traditional Owners, industry and community stakeholders to protect and preserve our environment through a range of biodiversity, wildlife, sustainability, climate change and community initiatives.

As a new industry for Victoria and Australia, we recognise there are uncertainties around the risks and potential impacts of offshore wind development to our marine and coastal environment. That’s why we are working to strengthen our understanding of offshore wind and the environment and ensuring we align Victoria’s renewable energy objectives with our environmental values.

How do we ensure the environment is protected?

All offshore wind projects will be subject to robust Victorian and Australian government environmental management and impact assessment frameworks before, during and after operations begin.

Environment impact assessments are prepared as part of an Environment Effects Statement (EES) under the Environment Effects Act 1978 (EE Act) and are open for public comment.

For assessment of environmental effects under the EE Act, the meaning of ‘environment’ includes physical, biological, heritage, cultural, social, health, safety and economic values.

Read more about the EES process.

Offshore wind projects must also be assessed under the Australian Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

An assessment under the EPBC Act includes construction, operation and decommissioning of wind turbines, cables, substations and associated infrastructure. It must take the following into consideration:

  • Australia’s obligations under the Ramsar Convention
  • Relevant biodiversity conventions (e.g. Biodiversity Convention, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES))
  • Requirements of a recovery plan, conservation advice or a threat abatement plan for a listed threatened species
  • Australia’s obligations under migratory species conventions and treaties, including the Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA), China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA), Republic of Korea Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (ROKAMBA), Bonn Convention and Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP)
  • A management plan in force for an Australian Marine Park (AMP)
  • Public consultation and feedback on the proposed project.

Read more about the EPBC Act process.

Reducing the risk to marine life

To reduce the risk to whales and other marine animals, offshore wind energy projects will be required to prepare a management plan setting out how activities are to be undertaken, and how risks will be addressed. Regulations setting out management plan requirements are currently in development.

During the investigation and construction of an offshore wind project, developers apply a range of protective measures such as:

  • restricting vessel speeds
  • using thermal imaging and other observation methods to look out for and track marine animals and other protected species
  • shutting down sound sources if marine mammals are detected within a certain distance
  • maintaining exclusion zones around vessels.

Offshore wind projects also use less invasive technology than those used for offshore oil and gas exploration. For example, high-resolution geophysical surveys are often used for offshore wind projects to map the seafloor and the geology underneath it using active sound. These surveys involve acoustic equipment using varying frequencies of sound and passive sensors which are silent. This equipment is towed above the seafloor by slow-moving vessels.

The sound sources in these surveys are much lower in energy, travel far shorter distances and disappear quicker than the powerful sound sources typically used in oil and gas exploration, known as ‘seismic testing’ and ‘seismic blasting’.

Visual amenity

The Gippsland declared offshore wind area begins at least 10 km from shore, in waters governed by the Australian Government. Potential developers are currently being assessed for a feasibility license by the Australian Government. They will need to consult on the location and placement of turbines as part of their management plan and to support assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Fishing

International offshore wind projects have shown that they can share space with commercial fishing activities. However, this is a new sector in Victoria so further work will be undertaken to understand how fishing activities and projects interact in the same areas.

For example, there may be small, restricted areas around turbines and substations. There may also be larger restricted areas while approved construction takes place. The exact details of any restricted areas will be determined on a project-by-project basis, with developers required to demonstrate how they will share the area with other users. They will need to have a plan for gathering and responding to ongoing feedback throughout the life of the project.

The impact of offshore wind on recreational fishing has been examined overseas. It suggests that offshore wind farms and fishing can, in many cases, share the same space.

Want to learn more?

Explore our technical guidance material on the existing legislative process that offshore wind developers will be required to undertake, including the environmental and biodiversity approvals.

Page last updated: 15/01/24