The Australian Wind Alliance visited the New England Region in June to find out how things are progressing with the White Rock and Sapphire Wind Farms.
We met with lots of people and talked farms, communities and wind energy - making the mix work.
Benefit sharing, resilient communities and effective partnerships were the themes of a recent Australian Wind Alliance visit to the New England tablelands.
From an well attended information forum for landowners and a site visit to the Sapphire Wind Farm to a meeting with the Inverell Business Chamber and dinner at a local pub full of construction workers, it is hard to miss to the emerging role that renewable energy is and will continue to play in the region.
We spoke to many people about what communities can do to ensure they get the most out a wind farm project. Charlie Prell told landowners to see their relationship with developers as a meeting of equal business partners, and encouraged landowners to negotiate in groups to achieve fair outcomes for everyone involved. He also shared some wisdom about getting through the trials of construction - communicate communicate communicate!
Right now, between Inverell and Glen Innes, two wind farms and a solar farm are under construction. By the end of 2018, when they are connected and generating, they will be generating almost 500 megawatts of clean energy and boasting the tallest turbines in Australia.
Wind farms, however, deliver a lot more than just clean energy.
During construction White Rock Wind Farm has had up to 200 people working on site, and an estimated $30-40 million will have been poured into the local economy once construction is complete.
The wind farm also has a shop front in Glen Innes staffed by Sandra Royal who told us that she is constantly surprised by the number of people who want more information about the project.
Sapphire Wind Farm have developed a legacy project during construction to “provide community groups and organisations with the opportunity to realise small-scale infrastructure projects that will bring benefits to the wider community”.
These projects will be stimulating the local economy through employment, direct and indirect spending, community funds and payments to farmers. It is important that the community works closely with developers to ensure that wind farm benefits are widely and equitably and that community engagement is not just sufficiently but exceptional.
Renewable energy projects are being rolled out around Australia. It is up to all of us to ensure regional communities continue to realise the enormous benefits of the clean energy revolution.