The clock is already ticking on the need to start work on a Newcastle-based offshore wind turbine manufacturing facility in order to maximise the amount of local content in turbines that will be positioned off the region's coast.
The federal government and the offshore wind industry want the giant turbines to be producing significant amounts of baseload power by early next decade. If that is to occur, planning and preliminary works need to start now.
Oceanex chief operating officer Emily Scivetti, who has worked on major infrastructure projects over the past two decades, said about five years lead time will be needed to obtain planning approvals, order machinery and build and commission a facility.
"Our message to government is we need to get moving now," Ms Scivetti said.
"We believe NSW is primed to participate in local content when it comes to the steel floating foundations.
"We are talking up to 30 per cent capex (capital expenditures) for the NSW steel supply chain."
Oceanex and Bluescope Steel have spent the past three years working to maximise the amount of Australian steel in the various offshore wind projects planned for the Australian coastline.
They estimate about 750,000 tonnes of steel will be needed for each 2 gigawatt project - or about 5,000 tonnes of steel per turbine.
"My personal goal is that any components that we are manufacturing in NSW should use 100 per cent Aussie steel," Ms Scivetti said.
"Can we supply 100 per cent of the steel to those components that we make onshore? I think the answer is yes."
The obvious location to establish an offshore wind manufacturing facility in Newcastle is the former BHP land at Mayfield.
The former Coalition government called for expressions of interest in the 52 hectare Intertrade site in early 2022. The Labor government is yet to announce its vision for land.
"There is a lot of interest from overseas fabricators from Spain and from Japan around what does a local fabrication facility at the Port of Newcastle look like?," Ms Scivetti said.
"We are working with the global and local fabricators around what's possible because it's not going to be one-stop-shop. It's going to be an ecosystem of fabricators."
Aside from the infrastructure requirements, hundreds of people will be needed to work around the clock to produce turbine components.
Manufacturing skills, such as welders and boilermakers, will be in high demand.
"Most of them will be vocational trades, so that means attraction in schools," Ms Scivetti said.
"This is the sort of industry that is a perfect fit for the Hunter and Illawarra regions, but how do we attract young people finishing school to stay in the Hunter and to understand the offshore wind industry?"
The size of the final zone was significantly reduced and pushed further away from shore than what was indicated in an initial plan launched in February.
The output of the project was also reduced from eight to five gigawatts.
Turbines will cover 1800 square kilometres from Port Stephens to Swansea, 1000 square kilometres smaller than what was initially proposed.
More than a dozen Australian and international companies, including Origin Energy, BlueFloat, Oceanex and Energy Estate, have shown interest in developing wind farms in the Hunter zone.
The National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator opened applications for feasibility licences yesterday. The process will remain open until November 14.
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