Planned $4bn offshore windfarm could fully power Alcoa Portland aluminium smelter
8th December, 2021
By Royce Kurmelovs, The Guardian
The smelter, Victoria’s biggest electricity consumer, could slash emissions if Alinta’s proposed offshore windfarm goes ahead
Australian power company Alinta Energy hopes to build an offshore windfarm off the coast of Victoria to help Alcoa’s Portland aluminium smelter go green.
Though the project is in its earliest stages, a 500 sq km patch off the coast is being considered for the 1,000MW windfarm, dubbed Spinifex.
Spinifex is expected to cost $4bn and would connect to the grid through Alcoa’s Portland smelter, ensuring the operation – which is the state’s largest energy consumer – draws its power from 100% renewable energy.
Alinta’s head of project development, Kris Lynch, said the company believed it had identified an “excellent wind source” and preliminary work would begin next year.
“The area we’re investigating is around 500 sq km and about 10 kilometres from the shoreline, and the great thing about this proposal is that we can connect to the grid via the smelter and won’t need to build new powerlines on private land,” Lynch said in a statement.
“We think the windfarm would need to be around 1,000 MW to be viable.”
Lynch said the announcement had been made early in order to ensure transparency as it goes forward.
There are more than 10 proposed offshore wind projects scattered around Australia, with the potential to generate 25GW of renewable energy, but none have been built.
This has largely been due to a lack of clear regulations or direction, a situation the federal government sought to address last month when it passed initial legislation to begin setting up a regulatory framework.
Should it go ahead, Spinifex could take up to 10 years to construct and would be smaller than the proposed 2.2GW Star of the South offshore windfarm, which has served as a flagship for the industry in Australia.
Earlier this year Alcoa’s Portland operation was given support by the Victorian state government and signed a deal with three major energy providers – AGL, Origin and Alinta – to supply it cheap power.
Portland smelter manager Ron Jorgensen said the project may ensure the long-term viability of the operation.
“This proposal offers an ability to make a step change impact to Portland Aluminium’s carbon footprint and we welcome the opportunity to be involved in supporting the early phase investigations of this exciting renewable project on the Australian energy landscape,” he said in a statement.
Like steelmaking, aluminium production is an energy-intensive activity that is a major source of emissions, as most operations around the world draw their power from coal.
As countries look to reduce CO2 emissions, demand for green aluminium is expected to grow, with Australia’s two other aluminium smelters already looking to draw all their power from renewable energy by the end of the decade.
Alcoa has previously announced it is working on developing the next generation of carbon-neutral aluminium smelters.
Portland’s offshore waters provide a nursery, and are a highway for Southern Right and Blue Whales, which are a common sight between November and May.