Despite the promises South Australia will never become a hub for manufacturing wind turbines, towers or blades, according to evidence at a parliamentary inquiry into wind energy.
“It’s disappointing,” inquiry chair David Ridgway said.
“I’d hoped that as the wind power capital of Australia, with over half the installed wind generating capacity, SA would have had hundreds of jobs in manufacturing turbines and blades.
“Instead we hear they’re all imported from the USA, Europe or China, and that’s not going to change despite the promises Government has been making for more than a decade.”
In 2009 the State Government appointed a Commissioner for Renewable Energy with a massive $20 million budget to boost investment and jobs in the wind energy sector.
“It’s been a failure,” Mr Ridgway said. “We were told then that manufacturing jobs would follow the turbines like rain was supposed to follow the plough. Rural SA has been dudded and so has the manufacturing sector.”
The Ridgway committee is looking at the social, economic and health effects of wind-driven power stations and has recently had its terms of reference extended to include their impact on farming practices and property values.
Giving evidence today were SA Power Networks (formerly ETSA Utilities) and Vestas, a leading global turbine supplier.
Vestas told the inquiry that the company had once established a turbine manufacturing industry in Australia but that the economies of scale meant it wasn’t profitable.
“This is quite different from what we were led to believe when the wind industry was being established in South Australia,” Mr Ridgway said.
The committee also heard that wind-driven power stations would not be profitable without taxpayer support through Renewable Energy Certificates.
“About half the power station companies’ profits come from producing certificates, as opposed to selling the actual electricity,” Mr Ridgway said.
“Without those, the wind industry would not survive.”
Mr Ridgway said he was surprised to hear from Vestas that the company did not believe power stations on one property affected the value of neighbouring houses or land.
“The committee will certainly be investigating that further,” Mr Ridgway said.
“We’re trying to work out what should be the minimum distance between turbines and homes or villages.
“I don’t think too many people would prefer to live less than a kilometre from a turbine.
“Vestas’ submission says wind-driven power stations can co-exist with most kinds of farming, a view in direct contrast with that of the Regional Communities Consultative Council which says productive farmers near power stations are facing lower profits and falling land values because of the turbines.
“The committee wants a lot more answers before we can publish our findings, and we’ll be seeking those from primary producers as well as from wind power companies.”
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