The largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere is to be built in Victoria’s southwest.
The 140-turbine, $1 billion Macarthur wind farm, which will produce enough energy to power more than 220,000 homes, is slated for completion by early 2013.
It will reduce greenhouse gases by more than 1.7 million tonnes annually, the equivalent of taking more than 420,000 cars off the road every year.
Federal Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said the wind farm would not have been possible had it not been for the federal government’s target of 20 per cent of the nation’s electricity coming from renewable energy sources by 2020.
“This project heralds Australia’s clean energy future,” she told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.
“Under the government of which Opposition Leader Mr (Tony) Abbott was a member, renewables went backwards.
“This Gillard Labor government is committed to renewable energy.”
The state government’s climate change bill, which sets a target of reducing Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions to 20 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020 is before parliament.
Mr Brumby said Victoria wanted to lead the nation in renewable energy generation.
“This is in fact the biggest investment in renewable energy in Australia since the Snowy Mountains scheme,” he told reporters.
Victorian Landscape Guardians president Randall Bell said the wind farm would be a disaster.
“It’s a disaster for the people of Macarthur, it’s a disaster for the landscape, it’s a disaster for birdlife, it’s a disaster for taxpayers and it’s a disaster for the environment,” he told AAP.
James Purcell, who was elected Moyne Shire Council mayor in December 2009 but is standing as an independent in the federal election, has lived in the region for about 50 years.
He said that while some people were opposed to the wind farm the community was generally supportive.
“The feeling around Macarthur is that it will be of real economic benefit to the community,” Cr Purcell said.
The project, funded by Australia’s AGL Energy and New Zealand’s Meridian Energy, will generate 400 direct jobs during construction and 30 full-time jobs once operational.
Local engineering company Keppel Prince is in negotiations with contractor Vestas to supply wind towers for the project and in talks with BlueScope Steel to supply the material.
Keppel Prince general manager Steve Garner says the company would expand its factory and employ 100 new staff if it wins the contract but would be forced to lay off up to 100 employees if the work goes overseas.
In state parliament, South-West Coast Liberal MP Dennis Napthine challenged Mr Brumby to ensure all the wind turbines were locally sourced using Australian steel.
If the Victorian opposition wins government in November it has pledged to ban wind farms from being built within 2km of homes and in growth corridors, national parks and tourist zones.
Mr Brumby said the Macarthur wind farm could not go ahead under the opposition’s policy.
But Opposition MP Robert Clark said the project would proceed under a coalition government.