SYDNEY (Bloomberg) — The Roaring Forties gales off Tasmania, where Hollywood swashbuckler Errol Flynn was first smitten with sailing, are luring Chinese investors with a different passion — harnessing wind to generate electricity.
Shenhua Group Corp., China’s biggest coal producer, has taken stakes in three wind-power projects on the Australian island through state-owned renewable energy unit Guohua Energy Investment Co. It’s also a potential investor in a proposed A$2 billion ($2.1 billion) Tasmanian wind farm, which would be the biggest in the southern hemisphere.
“Australia is becoming a preferred destination,” said Helen Zhi, a business development director at KPMG in Sydney who visited about 20 Chinese renewable energy companies in October. “Only one put America as the number one prioritized market. All the others, particularly among wind players, put Australia as No. 1.”
Besides the wind, China is attracted by Australia’s A$10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corp., which starts making loans in July. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has another A$2.2 billion in government funds to support clean energy. Those funds are backed by government policy and targets.
“Australia is attractive to a number of international companies given the investment quality of the environment,” said Roy Adair, the chief executive officer of Hydro Tasmania, the state-owned energy company studying the proposal to build the 600-megawatt TasWind farm.
Another plus is Australia’s renewable energy target legislation, which shows a determination to change the country’s carbon intensity and energy mix by 2020, he said in a phone interview yesterday.
The site of the TasWind project is King Island in the Bass Strait between Tasmania and Melbourne in southeast Australia, where the westerly winds in the days of sail drove at least 60 ships onto rocks to claim 800 lives before the first lighthouse was built in 1883. Flynn, a leading man in Hollywood’s Golden Years of the 1940s who died in 1959, was born in Tasmania.