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Wind power plan for desalination plant

The Liberal Party has left open the possibility of powering its planned desalination plant with wind energy, despite being opposed to coastal turbines.

The Liberal candidate for the marginal seat of Hastings – one of the sites suggested by Ted Baillieu for the $400 million, 50 billion litres-a-year desalination plant – refused to rule out the possibility yesterday that the proposed plant would run on wind power from turbines on the Westernport Bay coast.

Neale Burgess, who needs just a 0.9 per cent swing to claim Hastings from Labor MP Rosy Buchanan, said a desalination plant would represent a “massive benefit” for the Hastings community, and suggested such a plant might be powered by a combination of solar, wind and thermal energy generated from the Esso and BlueScope steel industrial facilities.

But earlier, Mr Baillieu had talked himself into a tight position explaining how he would marry his election position against wind turbines with the possibility that a Hastings desalination plant would run partly on wind energy.

In July, Mr Baillieu unveiled his election policy on wind farms, under which large areas of the state would be no-go zones for wind turbines, and said wind farms would be banned from scenic coastal areas.

But yesterday, he was suggesting his proposed desalination plant, which would have to be located on the coast, could run mostly on wind power. “If you go back to the original function of wind energy, a windmill was about moving water.”

But asked whether the voters of Hastings could expect wind turbines under a Liberal government, Mr Baillieu was quick to dismiss the suggestion. “I would discourage there being a wind farm on the coast because we have said in the past that wind farms have their place, but they shouldn’t go in sensitive landscapes and they shouldn’t go where local communities don’t want them.”

Mr Baillieu said wind energy could be transported from another location to the desalination plant. “We have cables,” he said. “It’s not necessary to collect the power on-site at the plant.”

By Natasha Robinson and George Megalogenis