Andrew Durran must believe in Bob Dylan’s line “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” when it comes to planning what would be the world’s biggest windfarm near Broken Hill in NSW.
Mr Durran, the executive director of German renewable energy company Epuron’s Australian subsidiary, yesterday rejected assertions from NSW Energy Minister Ian Macdonald that NSW “isn’t a high-wind state”.
Yet according to the Bureau of Meteorology, Mr Macdonald is right – big and steady winds around Australia occur in exposed southern coastal areas, while those at Broken Hill would not fill a windsock most of the year.
But in a discussion with The Australian yesterday, Mr Durran revealed there were two other motivations for Epuron to choose the far west of NSW for the proposed $2billion project.
One is the NSW Government’s legislation before parliament to create a big artificial market for renewable energy.
Mr Durran said the legislation, which will set a mandatory target for energy authorities to take at least 15 per cent of their power from renewable sources by 2020, was a strong incentive to base the project in NSW. Without it, he said, most proposed renewable energy projects, including Epuron’s, “just won’t happen” because they would not be commercially viable against coal.
The state Government was, Mr Durran suggested, reflecting community views that “they want wind and solar power”.
Epuron’s other special interest in Broken Hill is that access to the land on the proposed site would be cheap and the company would not have to deal with native title.
Mr Durran said the 500 turbines would be located on permanent-leasehold country that is owned by graziers.
Epuron’s German parent is a big public-listed company with a proven record in developing windfarms in Europe.
But on ABC television’s Lateline on Monday night, Mr Macdonald appeared to cast some doubt on Epuron’s choice of location to build the windfarm, which could power 400,000 homes. “NSW is not a high-wind state where you could reliably guarantee, efficiently, wind power into the grid to meet both economic and target needs,” he said.
Senior Bureau of Meteorology officer Graham De Hoedt yesterday said the strongest and most consistent winds were in coastal areas, particularly in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, which are exposed to strong prevailing southwest winds.
Parts of coastal Queensland enjoyed trade winds, Mr De Hoedt said, but in places deep inland such as Broken Hill, “you tend to get less windy conditions in general”.
Historical data for January showed winds there came in above 10km/h only 20 per cent of the time, and above 20km/h 10 per cent of the time.
In contrast, the wind blew at Ceduna in South Australia faster than 20km/h for about half the time.
But Mr De Hoedt said local topography could make a huge difference, saying if Epuron had found a good ridge or natural wind funnel, such a site could get considerably more wind than Broken Hill itself.
By Ean Higgins
10 October 2007
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