The windy shores of Esperance have spun the blades of Australia’s first commercial wind farm for more than two decades.
But the Ten Mile Lagoon facility reached the end of its design life last year and some locals fear the iconic structures will not be replaced.
Utilities company Synergy found that despite reaching the end of its life, the turbines could safely keep operating for another five to seven years, but the government-owned company has said it will not replace the turbines when it finally closes.
Esperance Environment group LEAF spokeswoman Lindy Shippard says Esperance is an innovative town and the wind farms are a significant part of that.
“I think the wind turbines themselves and the fact that they’re a green, clean energy are one of the favourite points of Esperance, they’re a focal point for the community,” she said.
“It’s a very proud icon we have, not just that it’s a great form of technology, but that we’re able to have a green technology, something futuristic.
“The concerns for the future are that there will be no useful wind turbine operating in the near future and the future beyond, that they might be left there as an icon to look at and drive past but they’re not going to be operating successfully.”
The Ten Mile facility grew out of Australia’s first experimental wind farm built in Esperance in 1987.
Synergy currently operates two winds farms, Ten Mile and the Nine Mile Beach, which can supply up to 20 per cent of the town’s electricity.
Together they save an estimated 10,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
However, in a statement, Synergy confirmed it has no plans to replace the turbines when it eventually closes.
The company says it intends to maintain the wind farm while there is enough demand and it is commercially viable to do so.
Closure ‘won’t impact power supply’
Esperance Shire President Malcolm Heasman said although the loss of the turbines signifies the end of an era, it would have no impact on power generation for the town.
“Obviously green energy is the better way to go, but it is an expensive way of generating power,” he said.
“Like all infrastructure it does have a use-by date and I guess the wind farm’s approaching that, so from our point of view what we would look at is what effect is it going to have on power supply in Esperance.
“We would feel it would have zero effect, primarily because most of the power generation in the town is generated from the gas turbine facility that we currently have.”
Ms Shippard said without the wind turbines, she fears Esperance will lose its clean and green reputation.
“It negates our ability to say that we’re a sustainable green town and LEAF and many members of the public really enjoy the idea that Esperance is a clean environment,” she said.
“People are quite aware at the moment of the need to increase our reliance on green clean energy and less reliance on fossil fuels.
“We really encourage the possibility of maintaining and renewing these wind turbines for the future.”