Offshore Wind FAQS

I want Novocastrians to be armed with all the information available about offshore wind.

Click on the questions below to expand the box and find out the answer.

Size/Shape of the Final Declared Area

Q. What has been announced for the Hunter?

  • The Australian Government has declared a area in the Pacific Ocean offshore of the Hunter, NSW, as the second area suitable for offshore wind.
  • The declared area addresses concerns raised during public consultation including environmentally significant areas, the safe management of shipping to and from the Port of Newcastle and community concerns regarding visual impacts.
  • The zone is about 1000 square kilometres smaller than originally proposed, now at 1832km2
  • The closest points of the zone to the coast are now about 20 km in the north, and 35 km in the south. The declared area is now over 50km from Norah Head.
  • These changes were the direct result of the feedback we received and shows how seriously we take the consultation process.
  • We’re committed to getting this right for everyone – for local communities, for the Hunter’s industries, for other sea users, and for all Australians.



Q. What determined the size and shape of the declared zone?

The final declared area is a direct result of the feedback we received during the public consultation and shows how seriously we take the consultation process.

We’re committed to getting this right for everyone – for local communities, for the Hunter’s industries, for other sea users, and for all Australians.

Q. What changes were made to reflect the submissions received?

  • The zone is about 1000 square kilometres smaller than originally proposed.
  • The closest points of the zone to the coast are now about 20 km in the north, and 35 km in the south (compared to at least 10 km from the shore at its closest points in the initial proposed area)
  • The declared area is now over 50km from Norah Head.
  • Areas close to the coast have been removed to ensure the safe management of sea users and vessel traffic in and out of the Port of Newcastle as well as address environmental concerns.
  • An area around Cabbage Tree Island has been removed to protect the habitat of the endangered Gould’s Petrel, and a key ecological feature – Shelf Rocky Reef – has been excluded. These are precautionary measures considering the environmental significance of these areas

Q. Why is the area smaller than what was initially proposed?

The declared zone is about 1000 square kilometres smaller than originally proposed. This change is a direct result of the feedback we received during the public consultation process.

Despite this reduction in size, the final declared area is estimated to be able to power 5.2GW of electricity, or 4.2 million homes.

Q. Is there a minimum distance from shore requirement?

The declared area is:

  • 38km from Newcastle, taken from north headland of Newcastle Beach as the closest point
  • 54km from Norah Head
  • 24km from Port Stephens, taken from South of Fingal Bay as the closest point

Q. What is the minimum distance from Norah Head?

The declared area is now over 50km from Norah Head. This is now the furthest zone from the shore.

Q. What happens to the proposed projects that now fall out of the declared zone?

Projects cannot be built in areas that fall outside of the Declared Offshore Electricity Infrastructure area. Projects will have to revise their proposals to be within the declared area if they wish to proceed.

Q. Will residents be able to see or hear offshore wind turbines from the local beaches?

Residents may be able to see the turbines, – where wind farms are closest to the coast, but they will not dominate the view.

The turbines will be over 20km from the shoreline and will not be able to be heard from along the coast.

How offshore wind turbines will look and where they will sit will depend on the final layout of the proposed projects, and the placement and size of the turbines.

Q. What is the height limit of the turbines?

Wind turbines will be a maximum of 260 metres above average sea level to ensure any offshore wind farms can coexist with Defence activities in that area.

Q. Will the Williamstown RAAF base be affected?

Offshore renewable infrastructure will be limited to a height of 260 metres to minimise impacts on Defence operations.

Licence holders will also need to consult with Defence on their projects and address the outcomes of the consultation in their management plans.

Community Consultation

Q. What was the consultation with community?

Throughout the 65-day public consultation process, more than 1,900 submissions from community members and groups were received. 

This process included 7 open houses across the Hunter region, and 6 online information sessions for communities and industry stakeholders.

The consultative process doesn’t end here – all proposed offshore projects will be required to engage with the community as part of their licence obligations.

Individual wind farm proponents are expected to consult with communities on their projects, and we expect community benefits to form part of those discussions.

Q. How was the consultation process advertised?

The Australian Government worked closely with the New South Wales Government to understand the views of the community on a future offshore wind industry.

The department undertook consultation across the Port Stephens, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, and Central Coast regions using the following methods:

  • advertising through newspapers, radio, and social media
  • letterbox drop of flyers encouraging the community to make a submission
  • detailed information about the proposal and how to make a submission on the department’s website
  • targeted stakeholder meetings with federal, state, and local government agencies, industry, business, and
    community groups
  • seven community information sessions from 6 March to 9 March 2023 in Wamberal, Doyalson, Swansea, Newcastle, Bar Beach, Nelson Bay, and Hawks Nest to answer questions and to encourage the community to make a submission

Q. What was the feedback from the consultation?

The majority of submissions expressed concerns about the environment and visual impacts. Details of these
concerns, and other concerns raised within submissions were:

  • Environmental impacts - the potential impact of turbines on endangered migratory bird species as well
    impacts on whales, dolphins, and other sea life.
  • Visual impacts - view of turbines and onshore transmission reducing the visual amenity of places along the
  • Other industry impacts - tourism, commercial and recreational fishing sectors were concerned that an
    offshore wind industry could mean they will be excluded from the area.
  • Shipping impacts - the risk to safe management of vessel traffic in and around the area.

A number of submissions expressed support for the development of an offshore wind industry. Potential benefits and opportunities highlighted in submissions included:

  • Local economy - local jobs and industry growth, including opportunity for transition of skilled workers from
    retiring coal-fired power plants to offshore renewables, opportunity for local skills and training development, and local content.
  • Clean renewable energy - the transition to sustainable low-emissions energy sources was widely supported.
  • Environment - the potential of offshore wind projects to create new habitats for marine species.

The Minister for Climate Change and Energy has listened and declared an updated, smaller area for offshore wind development, taking on board reservations expressed as part of the consultation process:

  • The declared area offshore of the Hunter, New South Wales, covers about 1,854 square kilometres, and runs
    from Norah Head in the south to Port Stephens in the north.
  • The declared area contains conditions for prospective feasibility licence holders, including the need to consult with the Department of Defence, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, as well as concession or licence holders under the Fisheries Management Act 1991 (NSW).
  • The Government is continuing to work with states and territories, market bodies, networks, and communities on reforming the regulatory framework around transmission (the RIT-T), to include genuine engagement throughout – not just at the end of the planning process for transmission.

Q. What will community engagement look like from here, now that consultation period is over?

It is now down to proponents to engage with communities about their projects.

The government has high expectations on community benefits and will be looking at projects based on their benefits to the national interest, which includes how they best benefit Australian communities.

Some projects have already begun consultation with local communities and we encourage communities to keep working together to deliver the best outcomes for all parties.

Q. How will this affect shipping, fishing and other local industries?

The zone has been carefully designed with local industries and communities in mind.

Changes have been made to improve navigational safety as requested by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and the Port Authority of NSW.

A condition has also been put in place to ensure developers consult with affected commercial fishers.

Each project that is successful in receiving a feasibility licence will need to develop a management plan for approval by the Offshore Infrastructure Regulator.

This plan needs to set out the consultation undertaken with existing users, such as people involved with shipping and fisheries, and how they propose to manage the interactions.

Environmental factors

Q. Do windfarms Kill whales, sea birds and other wildlife in large numbers during their construction and operation?
Q. What effect do they have on the natural patterns of whale and bird migration?
Q. Won’t the wind wake effect reduce current velocities and negatively impact marine ecosystems?
Q. Will birds have to adjust their travel?

Potential impacts of the activities associated with developing and maintaining an offshore wind farm on whales and seabirds, and any minimisation and mitigation measures, must be identified by developers and assessed as part of the project’s environmental approval. Construction cannot commence until all approvals are in place and a commercial licence is granted. Despite claims in the US that whale mortality events were caused by offshore wind farms, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that there was no scientific evidence that noise resulting from offshore wind site characterisation surveys could potentially cause mortality of whales. Good practice management recommendations are included in the Department’s key environmental factors guide.

Q. Will offshore wind reduce fossil fuel consumption?

Offshore wind projects are gigawatt scale projects. Publicly announced projects are approximately 2 GW projects at maximum output. This power generation can replace the need for coal power generation and therefore will reduce fossil fuel consumption.

The declared Hunter Wind Zone between Norah Head and Port Stephens and could generate up to 5GW of wind energy, enough to power an estimated 4.2 million homes and power local industries into the future.

The National Electricity Market over a 24-hour period uses approximately 12 GW of coal generated power accounting for 64% of energy generation in the NEM.

Electricity generated from fossil fuels is often used to produce renewable energy equipment such as wind turbines. The environmental payback period is the amount of time it takes for a wind turbine to generate the amount of energy used during manufacturing and installation. Vestas provide energy payback periods for a 4.2MW turbine as 5-8 months - i.e. it becomes energy neutral after 5-8 months of operation. 

Q. Will this disrupt sea breezes that moderate land temperatures?

Offshore wind turbines capture part of the wind energy that passes through them and cause a disturbance known as wake. An Institute of Physics study in North America reported that this wake can travel up to 20km (sometimes further across open ocean in the right conditions).

While the disturbance was statistically significant enough to be documented it only caused slight changes of less than 1% to the normal surface temperature especially at longer distances of 10-20km+.

The overall effects on temperature were negligible during summer when the most stable conditions are observed and it would be expected the largest change would occur.

This study was conducted in North America and developers will need to complete their own assessments of environmental impacts when they apply for environmental approval, prior to applying for a commercial licence to develop the project.

Q. Will these windfarms disturb the ocean currents in the East Australian Current?

There are few studies of the effects of offshore wind farms on ocean currents, and those that have been conducted were based in the North
Sea. Any effects on ocean currents are likely to be based on local oceanographic conditions and water depth, so European studies and simulations are unlikely to inform the local situation.

Potential impacts on ocean currents must be identified and assessed by developers during the feasibility stage of the project as part of EPBC approvals.

Q. Isn’t there a lack of research and knowledge of the effects?

There is growing literature available regarding the impacts of offshore wind.
A review of studies assessing the ecological impacts of offshore wind farms published in Nature in 2022 assessed 1353 publications.

Q. Why are there no other technology proposals apart from offshore wind being proposed?

The Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021 (OEI Act) does not specify that any particular technology has to be used. Technologies other than offshore wind, such as wave energy or floating solar, could be used, however none are currently commercially deployed.

Q. Won't blasting the seafloor with high-powered air guns every 10 seconds during construction reach more than 250 decibels and disturb behaviours?

Geophysical surveys to map the seafloor and geology before building an offshore wind farm are required to ensure the safety and suitability of a proposed location.

Seismic surveys conducted for offshore wind gather information on the seabed and the shallow structure beneath the seabed, and not deep into the geological formation like surveys for offshore oil and gas activities. As a result, the surveys for offshore wind use different types of equipment, are smaller scale and lower powered.

Q. Don’t the cables holding the turbine to the seabed emit an electromagnetic field which stuns crustaceans and causes deformities in offspring?

Naturally occurring electromagnetic fields (EMF) are present everywhere in the oceans. Undersea cables used for power transfer are also known sources of EMF. Three major factors determine the exposure of marine organisms to magnetic and induced electric fields from undersea power cables:

  1. the amount of electrical current being carried by the cable;
  2. the design of the cable; and
  3. the distance of marine organisms from the cable. The sensitivity of fish to EMF is based on the basic functions of their sensory organs.

A single, laboratory based study found an increased rate of deformity in lobsters exposed to EMF, however the researchers concluded that further research is needed in situ (in the ocean) to understand the impact wind infrastructure has one lobsters. A US study found EMF did not create a barrier for movement of lobsters. Good practice management recommendations are included in the key environmental factors guide.

All of these factors will be considered in detail as part of the EPBC process before projects can commence.

Q. Will these wind turbines be recyclable?
Q. I heard more than 40 million tonnes of blade waste will be in landfills by 2050?
Q. Isn’t their energy-producing life span only 10-20 years?

The Government is supporting wind turbine recycling technology in Australia through a $3 million grant to Industrial Property Maintenance and partners to develop a processing treatment and a pilot recycling facility for wind turbine blades. The grant was provided as part of the fourteenth round of the government's Cooperative Research Centres projects which focuses on the circular economy and priorities of the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund. 

Leading global turbine manufacturers are also taking steps to increase the sustainability of the sector.

Leading global turbine manufacturers are taking steps to increase the sustainability of the sector. Siemens Gamesa, a major turbine manufacturer, has already commenced production of 100% recyclable wind blades for offshore wind usage. Other major turbine manufacturers, such as Vestas and GE, have pledged to produce zero waste wind turbines by 2030.

The towers are often made of steel which can be recycled.

Turbine lifecycles are 25 years, and can be extended with regular maintenance out to 30-40 years.

Q. Won’t the noise from the wind farm impact home owners?

The noise from offshore wind farms is unlikely to affect homeowners and people onshore. This is because offshore renewable energy zones start 10km from shore.

A typical land-based wind turbine produces a similar noise level as a standard refrigerator at a distance of 300m from the turbine. Given the distance of these turbines from shore it is not expected that the noise will be heard from shore. Noise impact will be assessed as part of the environmental impact assessment required for the project.

Additionally, offshore wind turbines are less affected by terrain or vegetation which can increase or reflect noise on land.

Q. Won't offshore wind harm marine life and biodiversity fishing?

A recent review of over two thousand scientific articles found there were marine life benefits from offshore wind power. In summary the positive effects on marine life outweigh the negative ones and this is due to several factors such as:

  • A lack of fishing within the area causing an increase in fish numbers.
  • The formation of artificial reefs on offshore wind structures that increase the biodiversity and provide a protected habitat for fish and other marine life to shelter in. 
  • The attraction of rare species back to an area that was previously overfished.

To increase the benefits companies have begun to attach structures to their platforms to encourage artificial reef growth to increase the positive effects on marine life.

Recreational fisherman have also seen the benefits as they are able to catch a variety of fish regularly on the edges of offshore wind areas. 

Q. Why isn't there a wind farm proposed off the coast of Sydney?

The Hunter region has been identified as a priority region for a number of reasons:

  • have strong and consistent winds
  • are close to areas of high electricity demand
  • have existing electricity transmission infrastructure
  • have existing transport and port infrastructure
  • industry is interested in developing projects in these areas.

The Minister for Climate Change and Energy announced the identification of 6 priority areas in Australia for offshore wind in August 2022. 

Energy Generation

Q. What is the amount of energy that will be generated in the declared area? 

The final declared area is estimated to be able to power 5.2GW of electricity, or 4.3 million homes.

To put this into context, Tomago smelter uses 950MW of power, meaning this area could be able to generate enough power for more than 5 smelters.

Similarly, Eraring coal fired power station can generate up to 2,922MW, meaning the declared offshore electricity area could generate as much power as 1.7 Eraring power stations.

 The Hunter Offshore Wind zone is an essential part of achieving the Albanese Labor Government’s target of 82% renewables by 2030, and ensuring that the regions that power Australia today continue to power Australia tomorrow.

Q. How long will locals have to wait before the first electricity is produced by the offshore wind zone?

We expect offshore electricity production from the Hunter offshore region to begin closer to 2030.

In this time, potential developers need to acquire Feasibility Licences and meet all the required criteria under the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure regulatory framework.

They also need to consult with other users of the declared area such as Defence, Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), Civilian Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), other marine title holders and fishers to determine how they will share the marine space.

Developers need to undertake detailed environmental assessments and obtain all necessary environmental and management plan approvals before being able to apply for commercial licences.

Only when a commercial licence is obtained construction of the offshore wind project can start.

Q. Will locals need new transmission lines or electrical equipment in their community or on their property?

The location of transmission lines and other onshore infrastructure will depend on the location and design of the projects.

TransGrid (NSW) has overall responsibility for the transmission infrastructure planning, and proponents will need to work with TransGrid through the feasibility licensing stages.

Landholders impacted by new transmission developments are eligible for NSW landholder payments of up to $200,000.

Economic Factors

Q. Won’t the wind farm become an eyesore and de-value the
magnificent views of the Newcastle area and properties of home-owners,
renters and residents that bought into the area?

In 2018, a large-scale study analysed the impact of offshore wind turbines on the value of nearby residential and vacation properties in Denmark, a country that has had offshore wind for 30 years. The study concluded that having an ocean view with a wind farm had no significant impact on property value, in comparison to one without a wind farm.

Q. How do the developers get their licence and what does it mean for my rooftop solar?

Companies that are seeking to obtain licences to develop offshore wind farms in Australia are required to submit their business case and address how their project will benefit the national interest in their feasibility licence applications.

Developers that obtain a feasibility licence will be required to consult with local communities and existing marine users to negotiate co-existence and benefit sharing arrangements where relevant.

Australia has a huge range of types of electricity generation. We are supporting increased rooftop solar PV through our community batteries and solar banks proposals.

Q. Will these wind farms be dependent on government subsidies?

Developers are required to submit their business case in their feasibility licence applications. The issue of licences is a competitive process.

The government does not provide any specific subsidies to the offshore wind industry.

Q. Will offshore wind disrupt shipping and navigation routes for ships and shipping lanes?

Wind turbines in an offshore wind farm are spaced widely in a grid pattern. They are lit and marked in accordance with nautical safety guidelines, and their position is reflected accurately on nautical charts.

We also consult extensively with AMSA and relevant port authorities to determine the best possible shipping and vessel traffic routes in and around offshore renewable areas.

Proponents will be required to provide management plans to show how they are providing access to other sea users, including smaller vessels, to move through the offshore zone.

Q. Will storms, saltwater corrosion, and access make repairs and maintenance costly and time-consuming?

Offshore wind turbines are purpose built to withstand natural conditions at sea. The steel structures are coated with purpose designed coatings to protect from corrosion.

Operations, maintenance and repair costs are factored into the life of a project prior to final investment decision for the project to understand total project costs and determine viability.

It is likely that floating offshore wind technology will be required off the coast of NSW. Floating foundations and turbines can be towed back to port using tugs for more significant works if required. Conducting works in ports is a safer and more stable environment.

Q. Are offshore wind farms reliable and energy efficient?

When developers identify an area for offshore wind farms, wind speed and turbulence is a crucial consideration. Areas should ideally have high and consistent wind speeds. Wind maps and data modelling have identified the areas around Australia with highest wind potential.

Offshore wind turbines generate power almost all the time – and there will always be a backup option in the grid.Offshore wind is more consistent than onshore wind and solar, meaning it is more reliable, more of the time.

Feasibility Licences & Next Steps

Q. What are the next steps now that the area has been declared?

  • Before any proposed project can progress, each developer will need to be granted a feasibility licence. A feasibility licence is a licence for a developer to undertake all necessary environmental and scientific studies ahead of reaching financial close. This licence lasts for up to 7 years.
    • Feasibility licence applications are open from 8 August to 14 November.
    • All potential developers must submit their application during this time, and they can only apply for a feasibility licence within the Hunter declared zone.
    • Applications must meet all the required merit criteria specified under the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure regulatory framework in order to be considered.
    • Once the feasibility licence application invitation period has closed, the Offshore Infrastructure Registrar will assess all applications and make a recommendation to the Climate Change and Energy Minister on projects that should be awarded feasibility licences.


  • During the feasibility licence stage, developers must also:
    • Undertake detailed environmental assessments and obtain all necessary environmental and management plan approvals before being able to apply for commercial licences.
    • Consult with other users of the declared area such as Defence, Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), Civilian Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), other marine title holders and fishers to determine how they will share the marine space.
    • Continue community consultation and engagement.


  • Construction and next stage of licencing (e.g. commercial licence) cannot commence until all environmental approvals are obtained by the developer. It is only when a commercial licence is obtained that construction of any offshore wind project can start.

Q. When will the first offshore wind licences be issued?

  • The Offshore Infrastructure Registrar will assess all applications and make a recommendation to the Climate Change and Energy Minister on projects that should be awarded feasibility licences.
  • It is anticipated that decisions on the first feasibility licences will be made by mid-2024.