It’s been a torrid few years for renewable energy in Australia, with jobs being shed and investment drying up. The Victoria landscape has been no exception.
So it is perhaps to some state shame that one of the few recent Victorian projects to get the financial go-ahead has been backed by the Australian Capital Territory.
On Tuesday renewable energy firm Windlab announced it has signed a deal with a Japanese company for the final financing for a $50 million wind farm north-west of Bendigo, meaning construction will now begin mid-year.
The Coonooer Bridge Wind Farm will have a modest six turbines and generate up to 19.4 megawatts of power, enough for 14,000 homes.
It is one of three wind projects supported by the ACT government via feed-in-tariffs, with winning projects selected earlier this year through an auction. Company RES Australia was also backed to build a 80.5 megawatt wind farm near Ararat.
The auctions are part of the ACT’s goal to have 90 per cent of its electricity needs come from renewable power by 2020.
Renewable energy investment in Australia has collapsed since the Abbott government launched a review of the national renewable energy target for 2020. In the year to March investment totalled just $206.9 million in Australia, 90 per cent lower than the previous 12 months, according to consultants Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Since 2013 the only other wind project to reach financial close was the tiny Chepstowe wind farm near Ballarat, according the Clean Energy Council.
The federal government and opposition are still negotiating on a deal that would see the national target reduced. But talks have stalled over what level it should be brought back to, leaving the industry shrouded in uncertainty.
Windlab chief executive Roger Price said with uncertainty surrounding the target, the ACT feed-in-tariff had been only game in town for his industry in the last two years. He called for an immediate end to the target standoff.
‘”We have wasted far too long, we have cost the industry far too much pain already, ” he said.
The Coonooer project is getting $81.50 per megawatt hour of electricity in produces from the ACT, regarded as a low price for wind energy. It will be 80 per cent owned by Japanese firm Eurus Energy Holdings. Windlab will own 16 per cent, while 33 landowners neighbouring the project will have a four per cent share.
Farmer Leigh Watts, who co-owns the land the turbines will be built on, said community opposition to the project was low. He said everybody with land or a home within three kilometres of the turbines got a share in the project and will receive annual dividends.
The Andrews government has commenced work on a “renewable energy action plan” for Victoria, which it says will include measures to attract renewable energy investment to Victoria.
There are several larger wind farm projects still planned for Victoria. But their future has been racked with uncertain with the renewable energy target’s fate still unclear.
Last week New Zealand-based power company Trustpower applied for Victorian planning approval for its proposed $650 million Dundonnell Wind Farm. It is the first wind project to seek planning approval since the state government relaxed laws preventing turbines being built near a home without agreement from residents from two kilometres to one.
Source: The Age