Sunday, 3 April 2011

Turbines take their turn

Sydney Morning Herald
25 March 2011, Page: 2

AUSTRALIA is poised for a boom in wind power, with the sight of turbines on hilltops set to become standard for huge tracts of the rural landscape. About 187 MWs of power for NSW comes from wind farms, with turbines that will generate a further 138 MWs being built and the Planning Department assessing an additional 3057 MWs enough to power half a million houses. fossil fuels, mainly black coal, brown coal and gas, still generate more than 90% of Australia's electricity, according to last year's Clean Energy Council report.

Most renewable energy is still hydroelectric, enough to power about 09 million households annually. Wind power comes next, with enough electricity to run about 700,000 households, followed by bioenergy (about 350,000) and solar panels (65,000). Renewable energy production will have to double in the next nine years if Australia is to meet its national target of 20% by 2020. But two main hurdles are stopping wind turbines from taking a bigger slice of the energy pie.

The first is cost. The value of Renewable Energy Certificates is about $30 a MW but the Clean Energy Council says a price of $50 is needed to offer useful returns to largescale investors. The big investors, AGL Energy and EPURON, which are planning some of the world's largest wind farms in outback NSW, say they are reconsidering the scale of their projects because of the certificate price.

The second hurdle is local opposition to wind farms. Anti turbine campaigns have formed in all six designated "wind corridors" in NSW the New England Tablelands, the Upper Hunter, the Central Tablelands, NSW/ACT borders, South Coast and Cooma Monaro.

To measure public concern, the state government surveyed 2000 people and 300 businesses in rural NSW late last year. About 80% said they would strongly support wind farms in their region. Support dropped off somewhat if a wind farm was proposed closer to a person's house but 60% still supported the idea within two kilometres of their house. About 13%, many aged over 65, said they did not support wind power.