Wind farms worth almost $5 billion are poised to be built across Victoria.
Thirteen projects with 854 turbines have won municipal council and State Government support and are ready to go.
Wind farms near Mortlake, Ballarat, Ararat, Warrnambool, Port Fairy, Ballan, Colac and St Arnaud can turn the soil the moment the Federal Government implements a new Renewable Energy Target scheme.
Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said he was hopeful a new RET “could be signed off” within weeks.
Energy companies say the turbines could be built within two years once the RET gets the green light.
Municipal Association of Victoria president Bill McArthur said the proposed $4.8 billion in wind farms would constitute the single biggest investment in rural Victoria.
But Cr McArthur said there was also “still a lot of controversy” about some of the projects, particularly their impacts on local roads.
A Senate inquiry began in Portland on Monday, chaired by Senator John Madigan, to question the economic impact of turbines.
Some submissions to the inquiry criticised the impact of turbines on property values and the science surrounding the effect on health from living close to wind farms.
There are currently 14 wind farms in Victoria, with 500 turbines.
Spanish-based Enerfin plans to build 63 turbines north of Ararat and, like the other mostly global wind energy companies waiting to build in Victoria, is waiting for the “uncertainty” over the RET to be resolved.
“Once that is overcome we can then make the financial connections work and sell the power to the energy market,” an Enerfin spokesman said.
“Everything else is ready for us to start building in the second half of next year.”
AGL Energy has built big wind farms at Oaklands Hill and Macarthur costing $1.18 billion.
In its submission to the Senate wind farm inquiry AGL Energy estimates it has created 875 direct and indirect jobs in rural Victoria.
Northern Grampians Shire Council Mayor Murray Emerson said his council last week approved the Enerfin proposal.
“It is a $460 million project, individually it would be the biggest investment in the shire’s history,” Cr Emerson said.
“Small rural shires like ours are battling all the time and the economic benefits from a project of this scale would be incredibly welcome.”
Ararat Rural City Mayor Paul Hooper, who spoke at the Portland inquiry on Monday, said there were wind farm projects worth $1.68 billion ready to begin in his shire.
“This is an industry we already know very well and our residents support, we have a community which is pro-wind farm.
“There are lots of jobs in construction, benefits from rates and the farms benefit which host them.
“Rural shires have low populations and big areas to service, so a free kick of this magnitude is something we are very excited about.”
MAV president Cr McArthur said the dollar investment from wind farms “was astronomical”.
“They do come with their problems, which is what I worry about as well.
“We have seen issues with wind farms about road damage and we still have people worried about the health impacts from them.”
A spokesman for Industry Minister Mr Macfarlane this week told The Weekly Times the Government was negotiating with Labor and the crossbench to progress RET talks.
The spokesman said the RET was not working as intended.
“The Government is determined to restore a Renewable Energy Target that works as intended, to encourage investment in renewable energy and to maintain Australia’s diverse energy mix,” the spokesman said.
“Since the RET was introduced in its current form six years ago, market conditions have changed and there is now an oversupply of electricity.
“The RET is now out of step with the energy and consumer market in which it operates, leading to investment uncertainty,” the spokesman said.
“The Government will work with any party who wants play a constructive role in fixing the RET and ensure a sustainable future for the renewable energy sector and ensure renewables continue to contribute to Australia’s energy mix.”
Victorian Energy and Resources Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the Government was promoting wind farms because of job creation and regional development and impact on greenhouse gas.
Ms D’Ambrosio said the Government had recently reduced the exclusion zone from winds farms from 2km to 1km to help create even more projects.
She said developments would now be approved by the state’s planning minister.
Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber said wind farms “would be a boon” to small rural councils with limited rate income.
Mr Barber said the pressure was on the State Government as well as the Federal RET negotiations “to make the wind farms happen”
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