We have plenty to be pleased about following a fruitful year of wind energy growth. Don’t remember it all? Read on. Maybe your memory will be jogged, or maybe you’ll learn something new!
What a year!
Some new beginnings
- Construction on new Victorian wind farms kicked off with Mt Mercer in January, Lal Lal in April, Berrybank and Crowlands in August, Ararat in September and Cape Nelson in November.
- Mt Mercer started generating electricity for the grid in November.
- New Victorian Premier Denis Napthine waxed lyrical about the beauty of wind turbines at the official opening of the Macarthur Wind Farm in April. The 140-turbine wind farm uses 3MW turbines, with each turbine reaching 85m high. It can power up to 220,000 homes a year with its 420MW capacity. It continues to employ 18 staff across the site, which spans three farmers’ properties.
- The first wind farm to be approved since former premier Ted Ballieu’s restrictive laws were introduced in 2011 - Coonooer Bridge wind farm – was welcomed in June by most in the community. This small five-turbine project was approved by the Buloke Shire Council and a ground-breaking new community engagement model was used to share the financial benefits more widely throughout the district.
- Challicum Hills in central Victoria celebrated 10 years of operation in September.
Wind and health
- The Victorian Department of Health gave wind farms the tick of approval in May, rebuffing concerns about their health impacts.
- In July the South Australian EPA measured infrasound and low frequency noise and revealed that they were more common in inner-urban settings than residences near wind farms at the sites they tested.
- Earlier this month the South Australian EPA also concluded that the Waterloo Wind Farm met Australian and international standards on noise and infrasound levels.
- An Essential Media Communications poll demonstrated that wind energy enjoys overwhelming community support, with over 75% of respondents saying they supported the building of wind farms in Australia; only 11% said they were opposed.
Things looking up for Portland
- Keppel Prince Engineering workers in Portland were relieved to learn in July that their jobs were safe for now when they won a contract to build 51 wind towers for a Taralga, NSW, wind farm. The deal was sealed when the funds were loaned to the developers by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which remains under threat by the Abbott government.
- The fourth and final stage of Pacific Hydro’s Portland Wind Energy Project also received the go-ahead in September after securing a loan from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
- Workers at Keppel Prince got a handy Christmas present this month when the Federal anti-dumping commission accepted preliminary evidence of dumping from Chinese and Korean wind tower manufacturers and responded by slapping import duties until its investigation is complete in order to level the playing field. Together with a welcome fall in the Australian dollar, Keppel Prince products are suddenly much more competitive and ready to bid for the new projects that we hope will be on the way very soon.
What was VicWind up to this year?
- Two Macarthur residents joined us to talk with Federal Member for Wannon Dan Tehan (Lib) about wind energy policies in April. May also saw wind workers have their say in a very public way about the importance of keeping and restoring wind manufacturing jobs in Premier Denis Napthine’s home electorate, where wind towers are also built.
- In June VicWind members met with some of Dr Napthine’s advisors to raise concerns about the state government's approach to wind farm planning.
- VicWind members came together for evenings in Ballarat in August and Portland in September to hear guest speakers discussing topical issues on wind energy, including planning regulations, wind tower manufacturing and policy developments.
- Candidates for four key Federal wind electorates were polled by VicWind for their stances on wind energy issues, drawing plenty of pre-election attention.
- Films of Waubra residents talking about their experience of their wind farm were launched in September, attracting global attention.
- People reflected on the spectacle of 140 wind towers in one area when they visited the Macarthur Wind Farm for its first, and free, community open day in October. VicWind members and members of the Warrnambool Mountain Bike Club were there, too, to have a chat and perhaps a cycle around the property.
- VicWind members enjoyed a private tour of the Macarthur Wind Farm in November, observing that resident cows, sheep and birds were perfectly happy with the development, with plenty of (slightly smelly) evidence spotted of creatures inhabiting the area around the base of towers. VicWind member and Vestas Macarthur site manager Shaun Harrison said his maintenance crews regularly see sheep resting in the shadows of the towers on warmer days, moving with the shadow as it shifts during the course of the day. Clever creatures!
- With VicWind’s assistance, our members from Waubra mounted a fantastic campaign to regain their name from the presumptuously-named anti-wind organisation, the “Waubra” Foundation. An extensive petition was gathered and delivered and while the initial response from the foundation’s directors was not what they were after, they’re in a strong position to continue the campaign next year.
- We maintained a steady presence in Victorian regional media throughout the year, promoting the cause of wind energy at every opportunity.