In dusty back paddocks and weathered coastal landscapes across WA, a transformation is taking place.
A wind-farm investment drive is to become a multi-billion-dollar boom and nowhere is that boom likely to be bigger than in the small Wheatbelt town of Williams, about 150km south-east of Perth.
Fuelled by Federal Government-imposed targets for renewable energy generation, a group of developers has launched an audacious bid to build one of Australia’s biggest wind-energy projects.
The company, Semaphore Energy, has applied to the Shire of Williams to erect a 70m “guyed mast” to measure wind speeds and reliability at a nearby farm.
The move would be a prelude to building a 310.5 megawatt wind farm costing more than $1 billion and with 69 towers, each measuring 194m.
At Kojonup, also in the South West, another group of private investors has said it intends to build a 150MW wind project that will cost up to $500 million.
The proposals are the latest in a number of wind-energy projects on the ground or in the pipeline.
Last week, a major 206MW wind facility backed by international banking giant UBS and REST superannuation fund began producing its first power, two months ahead of schedule. The Collgar farm near Merredin in the Central Wheatbelt has been billed as a leading light in WA’s push to meet Canberra’s 20 per cent mandatory renewable energy target by 2020.
Costing $750 million and generating enough electricity to power 125,000 homes, the project almost doubled the State’s “green” energy output to 9 per cent.
State Energy Minister Peter Collier said the enthusiasm for wind-energy was “phenomenal” but it could never provide base-load power and would probably only be an adjunct in WA’s energy mix.
Mark Bretherton, a spokesman for wind-industry lobby the Clean Energy Council, said the Williams proposal was unprecedented in Australia.
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