Huge wind farm plan announced
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A western NSW wind farm dubbed the largest in Australia could be up and running by the end of 2009, the company behind it says.
Renewable energy group Epuron announced its proposal today to install about 500 wind turbines north-west of Broken Hill, in far western NSW, saying they could generate enough electricity for 400,000 homes.
Epuron executive director Andrew Durran said if the NSW Government approved the wind farm near Silverton, the project could be operational in stages by late 2009.
The company will submit a development application for the farm in March next year, with approval expected by the end of the year.
Construction would begin early in 2009.
The $2 billion project could produce up to 4.5 per cent of NSW annual energy needs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, the company said.
“Silverton Wind Farm will be one of the largest in the world once it’s operating, with the potential for almost 1000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity,” Mr Durran said.
“NSW is an excellent state for wind farms. It has an excellent wind resource, it has a very strong transmission system, and it has got the largest energy load, so from our perspective NSW has a great potential for wind technology.”
Mr Durran said he had also spoken to the communities of Silverton and Broken Hill, with most people showing support for the project.
The operation and maintenance of the facility would create 100 permanent jobs in the area, he said.
Meanwhile, four landholders had already agreed to host the wind turbines.
“The townspeople in the area recognise the jobs and economic benefits from this project,” he said.
“They also recognise that to date their towns have relied on mining as a income source. This provides a new income source for the region.”
However, Mr Durran said the differences between the federal and NSW clean energy targets were a concern, as they created confusion and delays for renewable energy providers.
Under the Federal Government’s national Clean Energy Target, announced last month, 30,000 gigawatt hours each year would come from low emissions sources by 2020 – about 15 per cent of Australia’s energy consumption.
Prime Minister John Howard said the Government would consult with states and industry in designing and implementing the scheme, which he said would take effect no later than January 2010.
The federal plan would replace state-based schemes, he said.
NSW has set a renewable energy target of 10 per cent by 2010, beginning in 2008, and 15 per cent target by 2020.
“The chief concern there is that the State Government’s renewable energy scheme is intended to start from the first of January in 2008, [while] the federal scheme could be two or three years after that,” Mr Durran said.
“The industry can’t afford to wait two or three years for this to occur.
“We’d like the [federal] announcement to be strengthened to start from 2008.”
The Clean Energy Council’s Dominique La Fontaine said the confusion would lead to a stalling of investment in renewable energy.
“If the states put those plans on hold in the expectation of the federal measure, then that will cause a stalling in investment,” she said.
“So we must proceed immediately with the NSW renewable energy targets to enable the right investment framework, and the climate for the wind farms.”
The plan shows there’s no need for new coal-fired power stations, Greenpeace says.
Greenpeace energy campaigner Ben Pearson said the proposal showed coal-fired power stations, which fuelled climate change, were not needed.
He said Greenpeace was calling for a 25 per cent renewable energy target by 2020.
“A strong, ambitious renewable energy target would see this wind project and many more go ahead, delivering clean electricity and helping reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
“Australia does have the renewable energy resources it needs to move away from coal.
“All that is lacking is political support.”
8 October 2007
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