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Billions lost as import costs eat into wind farm funds  

Credit:  Pia Akerman, The Australian | www.theaustralian.com.au 15 June 2012 ~~

Forty per cent of the $7 billion capital invested in Australian wind farms has been flowing overseas, and the proportion is unlikely to improve without a lift in the renewable energy target, according to the peak clean energy body.

A report commissioned by the Clean Energy Council, due to be released today, gives a snapshot of the wind energy industry’s activity and the economic benefits from wind projects.

The Sinclair Knight Merz study found that while $7bn has been invested in local wind farms, only $4.25bn stayed in Australia. ‘‘The Australian investment includes the manufacture of the towers . . . the civil, electrical and other site works, including most of the installation and supporting labour, local transport and employee support services such as accommodation and food,’’ it said. ‘‘The major imported items include most of the plant and equipment related to the WTGs (wind turbine generators) and the blades.’’

The country’s largest wind farm tower manufacturer, Keppel Prince, has been a source of much local wind farm technology but has sacked staff and sought more redundancies over the past three months as orders dried up.

Clean Energy Council policy director Russell Marsh said the key imported parts, such as turbine cells and blades, were unlikely to be produced locally without an increase in the renewable energy target to stimulate more wind farms. ‘‘If a company sees that there is a long-term interest in developing wind energy in Australia they might look to put facilities here,’’ he said. ‘‘At the moment they’re saying there’s not enough of a market.’’

The study also found that for every 50 megawatts of capacity the average wind farm employs about five permanent staff.

Despite the findings, concern about the farms continues.

Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy is considering a report which suggests the Waubra farm northwest of Melbourne has breached noise standards. The report was written by an acoustician on behalf of residents who have complained of health problems caused by the Acciona wind farm.

A spokeswoman for Mr Guy said he had referred the report to his department for analysis. An Acciona spokesman said the farm was operating normally and had been found compliant by the minister last month.

Source:  Pia Akerman, The Australian | www.theaustralian.com.au 15 June 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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