An inability to “secure the social license” was a factor that told against a number of wind farms in southern New South Wales vying to supply electricity to the Australian Capital Territory.
Licenses to provide power were granted to two Victorian operations and one in South Australia which will begin pushing electricity into the grid by 2017.
A number of wind farms surrounding the ACT had hoped to be part of the deal.
“They need to continue to push hard. There are some good projects in the region but they just weren’t as strong as other projects.” ACT Environment Minister Simon Corbell stated.
“I would encourage them to look at the outcomes of the auction.”
The criteria set by the government included price, and also how the companies operating the wind farms were involved with the community.
Coonooer Bridge Wind Farm which is located west of Bendigo in Victoria is owned by Canberra-based firm Windlab.
Of the three successful tenders it will be supplying its share through six turbines.
It had the lowest feed-in tariff price of $81.50 per megawatt hour.
The Ararat Wind farm west of Ballarat was $87 per megawatt hour and Hornsdale near Port Augusta in South Australia is at $92 per megawatt hour.
Many of the wind farms located in the region surrounding Canberra have deals where they pay only the landholders where the turbines are erected.
However Coonooer has allowed other community members to be shareholders a point emphasised by Mr Corbell.
“Twenty per cent of our evaluation criteria was affected by looking at community engagement and what is known as the social license to operate with that broader support in the community.”
In suggesting that other wind farm operations in the region look at the Coonooer model, Mr Corbell pointed to the need for other suppliers in the future.
One of these is the Taralga Wind Farm north of Goulburn.
Like a number of communities, there are varied opinions on their merits.
A petition in the local General Store was critical of the wind farm after television reception deteriorated.
Rosie Stronach who’s partner’s family farms sheep and cattle and will have a number of turbines on their property when the Wind farm is complete has changed her stance.
“There was a lot of press about people becoming sick, the noise and the impact on the birds and stock so I was a bit apprehensive on how it would play out.” She said.
“But I can say that all the people I have dealt with from the wind farm’s perspective have been very professional and willing to help in any queries we have or problems we have.”
So far there have been three turbines erected on part of the family’s holdings with another five being closer to the home.
“Once they’re up we will have a better idea. We have had no noise at this stage and any disruption that has occurred has been rectified back to what it was.” Ms Stronach said.
The Australian Wind Alliance which has around 450 financial members and represents the communities and other groups associated with the technology.
However firms cannot belong.
National Coordinator Andrew Bray understands how the decision to award the contracts to interstate producers would be a disappointment to wind farms located in the region surrounding Canberra.
“I think it was assumed early on that some of those projects would come to this area,” he said.
“This area really has skilled itself up to proceed with wind farms.”
However he echoes what Mr Corbell noted that wind farms need to be able to demonstrate a wider community involvement.
“Projects that can demonstrate that they are sharing the financial benefits of wind farms more widely than just to a few local landholders I think will get vastly increased acceptance in the community.
“When you have a neighbour who isn’t getting anything and they can look over the fence and see a neighbour who is getting something that causes problems.
“If you can work a way through there where people are living in close proximity to turbines feel that they are acknowledged and get some sort of return at the same time I think that is something that we certainly like to see.”
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