A political storm may be brewing along the coast of the Illawarra, as the NSW government receives a report considering setting a target for offshore wind power generation.
The NSW government last week declared the Illawarra a Renewable Energy Zone, opening the way for the Illawarra to be at the centre of the state's transition to green energy.
In an earlier Expressions of Interest call out, $43 billion of private investment was collected for the region, with $35 billion in interest in offshore wind.
With strong winds, a stable continental shelf and ready access to major transmission infrastructure and energy-intensive industry, the Illawarra has many of the ingredients for a successful offshore wind project.
However some local councils are beginning to reconsider their stance on the project.
In December last year, Kiama Council voted 5-4 to oppose a wind farm that would be off the coast of Kiama.
That wind farm proposal, prepared by Spanish firm BlueFloat Energy and Australia partner Energy Estate, would connect to the local grid near Bass Point, Shellharbour.
Deputy Mayor at Shellharbour City Council Kelli Marsh said consultation so far was limited.
"I think a lot of locals don't know about it," she said.
The South Pacific Offshore Wind Project - which would be located off the coast of Kiama - held drop-in sessions in Wollongong and Kiama in December and an online webinar.
Shellharbour Mayor Chris Homer said while any public consultation strategy could be "strengthened", there was a lot of information available.
"I get briefed all day, every day, by the right people, by the experts, by my own operational staff," he said. "So I do have the privilege of having a lot of information, but I think moving forward for these companies to stay on point with a communication strategy that is well understood, nuanced, comprehensive, and to the point of the community concerns to move this whole renewable sector forward, I think that would be great."
Shellharbour councillor Rob Petreski said without a formal briefing to council, it was too early to state an opinion.
"None of us really are in a position to say much at all," he said.
It's not the first time wind turbines have divided opinion at Shellharbour council. In 2012, when she was Mayor, Cr Marsh used her casting vote to oppose future wind farms in the local government area, citing impacts on tourism, health and the natural beauty and wildlife of the region.
"My views have not changed," Cr Marsh said this week. "At the time they were looking at wind turbines along Bass Point and the foreshore, so, obviously, I did not support that. This is a little bit different, so I am open to it as long as it's not onshore."
The Australian Financial Review has reported the NSW government has received a report that could set out a target for wind energy generation in the state, after the Victorian government set a target of 20 per cent of its energy needs being met by offshore wind.
The most advanced offshore wind proposal in Australia is for the coast off Gippsland.
A target, if set, would give greater confidence to industry to invest in offshore wind in NSW, UOW energy expert Ty Christopher said, even as the sector awaits the federal government assessment of the areas proposed.
"Setting targets is highly valuable because it creates an environment of certainty for new investors," he said.
Projects proposed for the Illawarra would generate 12.9 gigawatts of electricity, equivalent to nine and a half million households. Australia has roughly 10 million households.
Liddell Power Station in the Hunter, which is scheduled to close next month, produces 2000 megawatts, or 2 gigawatts.
Mr Christopher said with Victoria targeting two gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2032 and nine by 2040, NSW could set the bar higher.
"We should as a state be targeting a minimum of five [GW] by 2030 and looking to double that, by 2040 in order to keep pace with the closure of fossil fuel power stations."
Cr Homer said with the city and the region already feeling the impacts of climate change, it was time to get moving.
"We've got to make a start," he said. "What I'm seeing with the climate is that there are what's called negative loops starting to get a hold now. There is already warming that is embedded into the planet.
"There's not much time anymore to discuss, muck around, do another report, we really need to get moving."