The federal government will announce plans for the creation of one of Australia's largest clean energy projects off the Hunter's coast on Thursday.
A 2810 square kilometre area extending from Norah Head to Port Stephens has been identified as being potentially suitable for hundreds of wind turbines that will play a major role in the Hunter's clean energy transition.
The 8 gigawatt Hunter Offshore Wind project, to be situated between 10 and 50 kilometres off the coast, would produce the equivalent energy of the region's fleet of coal-fired power stations.
The project, the second of six offshore wind projects proposed for Australia, could be operating by 2028.
The government estimates about 4800 jobs would be created during the construction phase. Another 2400 ongoing maintenance jobs would also be created.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen will be in Newcastle to formally open the project's community consultation phase on Thursday.
"The world's climate emergency is regional Australia's jobs opportunity and the Hunter is uniquely placed to capitalise on this. An offshore wind zone in the Hunter presents significant opportunities to create new energy sector and manufacturing jobs, drive economic growth and reduce emissions," he said.
"I'm encouraging residents from across the Hunter to have their say on the proposed area and what they would like to see from this offshore zone."
Despite having some of the best wind resources in the world, Australia doesn't currently have any offshore wind generation.
The International Energy Agency classifies offshore wind as a "variable baseload technology", making it closer to the capacity of gas and coal-fired power than onshore wind and solar PV.
For context, one rotation of one offshore wind turbine provides as much energy as an average rooftop solar installation generates in one day, with less fluctuation than onshore wind.
At least eight consortia have expressed interest in the construction and operation of the Hunter project.
They include a partnership of Norwegian energy company Equinor and Oceanex. The $10 billion project would include about 130 turbines located 30 kilometres off the coast.
Earlier this month the Australian subsidiary of the French-based energy giant EDF announced that it had acquired the Newcastle Offshore Wind Farm with the intention of gaining a foothold in the Hunter project.
Many of the Hunter's councils and industry associations, unions and educational institutions have also expressed support for the project.
"If we get this right there will be a lot of people on a lot boats servicing these wind farms, and that means it's a boat we can't afford to miss," Hunter Jobs Alliance coordinator Warrick Jordan said.
"This isn't an industry that will spring up overnight, but we do need to get moving as the competition for investment and supply chains is pretty fierce from nations who have already built this industry."
Mr Jordan encouraged strong participation in the consultation phase.
"We know the local employment and manufacturing opportunities and conditions are important, and we need to get the environmental protection aspects right. This consultation and planning process gives a great opportunity for people in the community to bring their local knowledge and priorities to the table," he said.
The federal government recently declared Gippsland off the La Trobe Valley as the first region in Australia to be home to a new offshore wind industry.
The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water will facilitate community information sessions on the Hunter project at Wamberal, Doyalson, Swansea, Newcastle, Hawks Nest and Nelson Bay in coming weeks. Submissions will run from February 23 to April 28.
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