THE FEDERAL government has opened consultation for a proposed offshore wind zone off the Illawarra coast.

The government said it identified the region for its major port infrastructure, strong offshore wind resource and role as an industrial and manufacturing hub.

The proposed offshore wind area covers 1461 square kilometres with the potential to generate up to 4.2 gigawatts of energy – enough to power up to 3.4 million homes.

The zone open for consultation would be at least 10 kilometres from shore and out to 30 kilometres at Kiama.

Federal minister for climate change and energy Chris Bowen said the new energy industry has “transformative potential” for the Illawarra.

“Offshore wind is energy rich and jobs rich but despite having some of the best wind resources in the world, Australia doesn’t currently have any offshore wind,” he said.

“This presents a huge economic opportunity for the regions that help power Australia – like the Illawarra – to continue to power our nation for generations to come.

“This is a genuine consultation and I encourage all community members to get involved and have their say on the proposed zone.”

NSW Ports CEO Marika Calfas welcomed the beginning of the consultation period, highlighting the role Port Kembla would play in delivering offshore wind projects.

NSW Ports in February released concept plans for a facility at Port Kembla’s outer harbour that illustrated how the port could be used to support the offshore wind sector.

“NSW Ports stands ready to work with the NSW and federal governments on measures to provide investment certainty for offshore wind projects – and the usage of our port facilities – to underpin future infrastructure needs,” Ms Calfas said.

The proposed offshore wind zone for the Illawarra coast. Image: DCCEEW

“Today’s announcement demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to offshore wind in the Illawarra and is a critical step for industry to progress projects that will help deliver a more sustainable energy future.”

Ms Calfas said the outer harbour development would be designed to support the handling, set down and assembly of offshore wind components, as well as the load-out of the completed turbine units to the zoned location offshore.

“Delivering this type of major enabling infrastructure in time requires substantial and ongoing collaboration between all levels of government, private enterprise, industry and the community.”

Ms Calfas said NSW Ports has engaged with several offshore wind proponents in recent months to inform the development of its designs.

And the federal government plans to engage with industry and community from now until 16 October with information sessions and opportunities for feedback on its proposed offshore wind zone.

Six information sessions throughout the Illawarra intend to give industry groups, businesses, community members, workers and residents the chance to ask questions and give feedback.

The federal government noted communities often have questions about environmental impacts and shipping.

A community consultation period for the offshore wind zone off the Hunter coast saw government declare a smaller wind zone than what it initially proposed.

In addition to the Illawarra, the Hunter and the Southern Ocean, the government has previously announced the Bass Strait region off Northern Tasmania, and the Indian Ocean region off Bunbury as regions earmarked for offshore wind zones.