3 big conversations on wind energy in the regions

Highlights from the Australian Wind Alliance’s panel event on the wind energy boom and Building Stronger Communities with wind energy

As wind energy booms around the country, with billions of investment and countless jobs being added to the industry - discussing how to ensure communities get the most out of this transition is vital. 

Here are 3 of the big conversations around the wind boom that were on top of people’s minds at our event in Ballarat, the epicentre of the wind boom.

What we need to see from other states.

“You have to be specific to ask what you want. As a policy maker ask what you want” - Simon Corbell

Simon Corbell is no stranger to renewable energy policy - touted as the architect of ACT’s 100% renewable status, and a fierce advocate for renewable energy in Victoria.

His message and advice for other states was clear: if you want to get serious about reaching your renewable energy targets, you need to be specific when creating whichever tendering process you will use to select the renewable energy projects.

“The great success of the ACT and VIC program is that they were very explicit about the types of outcomes they wanted around community benefit-sharing and economic development outcomes”

During the tendering process in these ACT and VIC RETs, some 40-50% of the final score given to projects was based on their community benefit-sharing and community engagement outcomes, resulting in projects that really contribute to the social and economic fabric of the states.

The boom of wind and wind careers

“Renewable energy from a jobs perspective is one of the hottest sectors that exists at the moment” - Bill Mundy

Federation University, hosts of the event, are helping to train up tomorrow’s wind energy workforce. With one of only two places in Australia that offers the course for wind energy technicians, the “Global Wind Organisation Basic Technical Training” - Federation University doesn't see an end in sight to demand.

It’s estimated that with the huge wind and renewable energy uptake that around 16,000 professional jobs on the technician side of the turbine will be created by 2020 and that there is a massive qualification gap that will need to be filled.

The other fascinating effect of wind farms booming in the regions?

The jobs from wind farms are providing a reverse flow, allowing people to stay in the regions, or even bringing more people out to the regions - claims Aubrey Chapman from Direct Wind Services.

“It’s a positive thing for regional areas, you probably don’t notice it as much with bigger places like Ballarat but it certainly is having an impact here as well.” Said Chapman.

Lessons for the new kid on the block

“It’s really exciting because there’s so much innovation happening, there’s so much breadth about what’s being offered from wind projects around Australia at the moment" - Taryn Lane

Wind energy has become synonymous with really effective community engagement and interaction with the projects. The sharing of benefits from these wind farms are really being based on local context and strong community engagement.

"It's never too late to get benefit-sharing right, these projects go for a minimum of 25 years" says Taryn Lane from Hepburn Community Wind Farm.

Pointing to examples like the Dundonnell Mini-grid and emerging Indigenous land use agreements (ILUAs) in Western Australia and the Northern Territory - wind farms are really expanding the ways in which they connect and work with communities, and attempt to share the benefits.

And now that wind farms have paved the way for community engagement, wind's natural complement; solar; as the new kid on the block in many regional areas, has a lot it can learn from this community consultation and engagement.  

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