Plans for Australia’s first offshore wind farm cleared a big hurdle when the country’s government granted an exploration licence for the 2GW Star of the South project.

The licence allows the project development team to carry out technical and environmental studies in federal waters at the proposed project site off Gippsland in the state of Victoria.

Star of the South – which is backed by global offshore wind investor Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) – wants to deploy turbines 10-25km off the coast in the Bass Strait, to meet demand in centres including Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city.

Star of the South CEO Andy Evans said: “While it’s still early days for the project, these crucial investigations will help us move forward and understand how we might progress an offshore wind project in Australia.”

The granting of the licence took longer than expected, prompting anger among some renewable energy advocates.

The Maritime Union of Australia in February claimed the delay was a result of “ideological hatred” of renewables in the country’s Coalition government.