The federal government has approved a significant offshore wind energy zone off the New South Wales South Coast.

Federal Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen has announced the creation of a zone projected to generate 2.9 gigawatts of renewable power - enough to supply energy to 1.8 million homes, according to reports.

Stretching from Stanwell Park to Kiama over 1,022 square kilometres, the zone has been modified in response to community concerns. 

Initially, the wind farms were to be positioned 10 kilometres offshore, but they will now be situated 20 kilometres from the coast. 

This adjustment aims to address issues raised during the community consultation process regarding the visual impact on the coastline and potential marine environment damage.

This is the fourth approved offshore wind zone in Australia, joining those near the Hunter region in New South Wales and Gippsland and Portland in Victoria. 

The designation of these zones allows windfarm developers to initiate project proposals for the specified areas.

The decision follows extensive consultation, which generated intense debate within the coastal community. 

Some residents opposed the change to their pristine coastline's appearance, while others expressed concerns about the marine environment. 

The zone has also been reduced by a third to exclude areas significant for penguin habitats and southern right whale migration paths.

Jennifer Rayner, the Climate Council's head of policy and advocacy, has highlighted the importance of offshore wind in Australia's energy strategy. 

“Offshore wind will be an important part of Australia's clean energy grid because it provides reliable, steady renewable energy right around the clock,” Rayner noted.

The project is still subject to approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. 

If approved, the wind turbines could stand up to 268 metres high, with the final size, arrangement, and number of turbines determined following feasibility studies by prospective developers.

The declaration is the first of five regulatory stages required before construction can begin, including project-specific feasibility, commercial licences, and environmental assessments. 

Developers must demonstrate how their projects will support local jobs and benefit Australian industry and energy security.

Feasibility licence applications for offshore wind projects in the Illawarra zone open from 17 June to 15 August 2024. 

The final declared zone details can be found on the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water’s website.