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A future for wind in Australia?

Oh yuck, look... A wind turbine

There was renewed controversy recently about the aesthetics of wind farms with comments made by PM, Tony Abbott calling them ‘visually awful’ and ‘noisy’. He is not the first in the current government to comment on wind farms, with Joe Hockey last year referring to them as ‘utterly offensive’ and some senators declaring them to be ineffective, health hazards, ugly and even to go as far as declare that they may constitute an act of treason. These comments and the appointment of a ‘windfarm commissioner’ have put the future of wind farms, and Australia’s RET in doubt. The irony of the government’s comments have not been lost on renewable energy advocates, with photos like the following circulating social media.

Wind energy is the fastest growing large scale renewable source in Australia, making up 30% of renewables and 4.2% of the total current demand. And it is cheap, at least as cost-effective as coal at around US$80/MWh. By the end of 2014, there were 71 wind farms containing 1866 turbines throughout Australia, and a further five farms expected to come online in 2015. However, promises to ‘do something’ about wind turbines by the PM have been worrisome. In addition the Senate has approved a one-fifth reduction in the 2020 RET target and a Senate Inquiry into wind farms is due to be tabled on August 3rd.

Despite this a $450 million deal has been struck to construct a new wind farm in Ararat, south-western Victoria. This farm will be Australia’s third largest, to supply power to 123,000 households. It represents almost twice the entire investment in large-scale renewables seen last year. It is estimated that a further 6000MW or 25 times that of the Ararat project will need to be constructed to meet even the newly reduced 2020 target.

 

Source: Clark, D. 2012. ‘Wind Power and Wind Farms in Australia: Wind in The Bush’. Available from: http://ramblingsdc.net/Australia/WindPower.html#Cost_of_wind_power Accessed: 3 July, 2015. Clean Energy Council, 2014. ‘Wind Energy’. Available from: http://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/technologies/wind-energy.html Accessed: 3 July, 2015.

Commonwealth of Australia (Geoscience Australia), 2015. ‘Wind Energy’. Available from: http://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/energy/resources/other-renewable-energy-resources/wind-energy. Accessed: 3 July, 2015.

Hannam, P. 26 June, 2015. ‘Renewable Energy Target deal clears way for $450 million wind farm investment’. Available from: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/renewable-energy-target-ret-deal-clears-way-for-450-million-wind-farm-investment-20150625-ghx4jw. Accessed: 3 July, 2015.

Parkinson, G. 18 June, 2015. ‘Abbott promised to Do Something about wind turbines’. Available from: Renew Economy Accessed: 3 July, 2015.

Phillips, S. 12 June, 2015. ‘Tony Abbott wants fewer ‘visually awful’ wind farms, wishes Howard government never implemented Renewable Energy Target’. Available from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-11/abbott-wants-to-reduce-wind-farms-wishes-ret-never-implemented/6539164. Accessed: 3 July, 2015.

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The Author

Skye Douglass

Skye is currently studying her Masters in Water Resources Management through Central Queensland University and has previously completed a Bachelor of Science and Honours degree through the University of Southern Queensland. She has worked as a researcher and consultant for over 15 years on a range of different projects including wildlife surveys, wildlife relocations, environmental and wildlife impacts, feral animal and weed species management, revegetation and native plant species identification. Most recently her interests have been in sustainable agriculture, water management, groundwater use and environmental management. She is passionate about sustainable living and minimal impacts management and endeavours to find innovative and cost effective solutions to real world problems.

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