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Wind farms free to expand, upgrade

Wind farms operators in the Ballarat region have been given more freedom to upgrade turbines and expand operations following the relaxation of a law brought in by the Baillieu government limiting improvement to existing wind turbines.

WestWind Energy manager Steve Crowe said the changes were welcome, but there were still a few hoops to jump through before the company’s farms at Moorabool and Lal Lal were upgraded.

“Once the rules have been changed, we then have to submit the amendment, which has to be assessed to the older guidelines,” he said.

The newer guidelines, which will be removed, specified how long turbine blades can be and the size of generators.

Mr Crowe said the company would apply to increase blade size, which, with bigger generators, would increase power generation by 50 per cent.

The renewable power industry is still in a state of

flux, as the federal government reviews the Renewal Energy Target (RET), which currently provides certainty for generators.

Pyrenees Shire mayor Robert Vance was part of a group of councillors from the region who sent a letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott urging him to keep the RET.

“If we lose (Stockyard Hill and Crowlands), it’ll be a major loss for jobs in the area,” he said.

Both projects are still in the planning stages, with turbines yet to be constructed.

The letter sent to Mr Abbott said the economic impact of losing the RET would be enormous for regions in the Grampians area.

North Grampians mayor Kevin Erwin said wind farms at Crowlands, Ararat, Bulgana and Stockyard Hill, with a combined total of 374 turbines, could potentially mean a $1.68 billion investment in the region.

Mr Erwin said the farms could provide $1.3 million dollars per annum in rates to councils and $300,000 per annum to community groups, as well as creating 60 direct and 74 indirect jobs.