Australia's Victoria state sets out fast growth plan for offshore wind power

MELBOURNE, March 4 (Reuters) - Australia's Victoria state on Friday set targets of at least 2 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power by 2032, and 9 GW by 2040, setting up ambitious goals to help fill a gap in power supply as coal-fired plants shut down.

Australia, heavily dependent on coal-fired power, currently has no offshore wind farms, although it has 7.4 GW of onshore wind power capacity.

Legislation last year clearing the way for offshore projects breathed life into the sector, which has 10 proposed projects looking to capitalise on strong wind resources along thousands of kilometres of coastline.

Victoria's offshore wind plan, which includes a 2035 target of 4 GW, follows a commitment last November by the Victorian government to provide A$40 million ($29 million) to run feasibility and pre-construction studies for three projects, which could generate a total 4.7 GW.

The most advanced of those is the A$9 billion ($7 billion) Star of the South project, aiming for a capacity of up to 2.2 GW, led by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.

"Offshore wind is no longer a possibility, it's becoming a certainty," Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said in a statement.

Victoria's coal-fired power plants are due to shut by 2045, but industry experts expect them to close well before that as coal-fired power becomes increasingly uncompetitive amid rapid growth in wind and solar capacity.

($1 = 1.3628 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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