$66m to generate hundreds of wave-power jobs

HUNDREDS of jobs are on the horizon after the Federal Government yesterday offered a $66 million carrot to kick-start Australia's largest wave energy project off the south-west coast.The Federal Government hopes the grant will see Australia's first commercial wave project built off the coast near Portland as part of its renewable energy master plan.It is expected the $300 million project would spark a massive jobs boom for the industrial port and the wider south-west region.The Standard understands Portland manufacturer Keppel Prince would build equipment for the project which would result in up to 45 energy-generating buoys placed between five and six kilometres off-shore.While yesterday's announcement was hailed in Portland, the grant was conditional on a 30-day negotiation process, with a decision from the Federal Government expected by Christmas.Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson yesterday awarded tentative grants to four commercial-scale projects across Australia including Victorian Wave Partners, a joint Portland initiative between Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) and partner Leighton Contractors.Mr Ferguson said the projects would diversify the nation's energy supply and help deliver the Government's Renewable Energy target of 20 per cent by 2020. The other projects under the $235 million master plan were two geothermal energy projects located in outback South Australia and a hydro-electric project on King Island. OPT Australasia director Gilbert George expected the Portland project to create hundreds of jobs in a number of temporary and permanent roles.He said the company had spent the past decade researching the capabilities of the wave energy in the region and that the government grant would help greatly in making the project a reality."We're absolutely delighted that the Federal Government have made this move," Mr George said."(This project) will create hundreds of jobs at a conservative estimate. "For it to come to fruition, we need engineers, boat operators, hydraulic experts, mechanic fabricators, electricians, the list goes on."This funding shows the Federal Government is serious about renewable energy and the potential wave energy production has in the south-west of Victoria."Multinational company Oceanlinx operates a wave energy prototype generator off Port Kembla in NSW and British company Renewable Energy Holdings has conducted wave energy trials off Western Australia but this initiative will be the first commercial wave energy project in the nation.Glenelg Shire mayor Geoff White said the move would secure the south-west’s long-term employment prospects.“It’s going to be absolutely huge for the south-west and for Portland,” Cr White said.“The council has been working with the people behind this project for many years and this announcement is the strongest indication yet that we will have an off-shore wave energy project on our doorstep.“South-west Victoria really has become the energy hub of Australia, with geothermal in Koroit, wind turbines in Yambuk, gas-fired plants in Mortlake and Orford and now the wave energy project in Portland,” he said.