The federal government has declared the nation's second offshore wind zone off the Hunter coast but significantly reduced its size and pushed it further away from shore.
Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen will announce on Wednesday that the declared zone for power-generating wind turbines will cover 1800 square kilometres from Port Stephens to Swansea, 1000 square kilometres smaller than the zone proposed in February.
The declared area will start 20 kilometres from the coast at Port Stephens, about 9km further offshore than first proposed, and more than 35km from the coast at Swansea.
The Central Coast section of the zone off Norah Head, which was 10km from shore and drew criticism from residents for being too close, has been removed from the proposal.
The zone's energy-generating potential has shrunk from 8 gigawatts to 5 gigawatts.
The government said the zone's smaller footprint balanced the views of the community, industry and sea users and would "enable continued safe management of shipping and other sea industries".
The height of the floating wind turbines will be capped at 260 metres to address aviation safety, and both the proposed and final zones have accommodated a Department of Defence request for a 46km exclusion zone around Williamtown RAAF base.
Mr Bowen said the declaration of the Hunter zone was another big step towards Australia reaping the "huge" benefits of offshore wind.
"The Hunter is undergoing significant economic change, and the prospect of creating new job opportunities for decades to come through a new offshore wind industry is a game-changer," he said.
"Today's declaration opens the door for a new industry in the Hunter which could create over 3000 construction jobs and another 1560 ongoing jobs."
The government received 1900 submissions, including more than 700 from the Central Coast, during two months of community consultation.
The Maritime Union of Australia, Mining and Energy Union and Electrical Trades Union had urged the government to grow the proposed zone by 30 per cent and stretch it south to Terrigal.
The unions wanted more of the turbines to be fixed to the ocean floor in shallow water to speed up construction and reduce costs.
At least eight Australian and international companies, including Origin Energy, BlueFloat, Oceanex and Energy Estate, have shown interest in developing wind farms in the Hunter zone.
Some proponents had called for the proposed zone to double in size.
Business Hunter's submission on the proposal called for the declared area to be "as vast as practical" and for a streamlined approval process.
The National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator will open applications for feasibility licences from August 8 to November 14.
The licences will give proponents exclusive rights to parts of the zone for seven years to help attract investors and prepare environmental assessments.
The Hunter's wind turbines will float in deep water, unlike in the nation's first declared wind zone off Gippsland in Victoria, where turbines will be planted in the sea bed closer to shore.
Competition for licences in the Hunter zone could be intense, especially if industry heavyweights such as Shell, Macquarie and Danish firm Orsted miss out on licences in Gippsland.
The government estimates the Hunter's declared zone will generate enough electricity to power 4.2 million homes if fully developed.
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