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Australia

Large wind plant to be built in Victoria

Australia's wind power capacity will triple in the next 12 months with the announcement of a 20 MW wind farm for Victoria. The A$30 million project by Energy Equity Corporation will be the largest single renewable energy project in Australia.

Energy Equity's manager for renewable energy, Matthew Rosser, says the company has won approval to develop two Victorian sites at Cape Bridgewater and Cape Nelson on the state's windy southern coast. The sites, each capable of supporting 20 MW wind power plants, represent some of the best wind potential in Australia with wind speeds in excess of 8.5 meters a second at hub height, according to Rosser. About 30 turbines rated at 600 kW each will be spaced 400 meters apart on the sites. Rosser estimates the wind farms will generate 70 gigawatt-hours a year with a capacity factor over 40%.

The company will call for tenders for the project this month, pending the granting of final approvals and completion of power purchase agreements with several retailers. It hopes to have the turbines in the ground and running by December.

Energy Equity has won unanimous approval from the Glenelg Shire Council to proceed with construction of 20 MW of wind turbines, although final approval will rest with the outcome the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. It must first assess three objections to the project. Glenelg Shire Council's Max Buckingham says the wind farm has strong community support and enormous tourism potential. He describes an objection from Australia's National Heritage Trust as "incredible," considering the care the Shire and Energy Equity had taken to site the turbines.

With revenues of A$500 million annually and substantial expertise in the independent power generation business with gas projects, Rosser says Energy Equity's foray into wind power is a strategic move to develop renewable energy projects for the evolving green power market. The company hopes to sell the green electricity at a price of about A$0.09/kWh, a rate Rosser says is substantially higher than the cross subsidised A$0.025/kWh in the current national electricity pool.

Entirely commercial

Rosser emphasises, however, that the wind farm is a totally commercial project that neither needs nor wants government assistance. Under the national electricity market and privatisation environment, all the mechanisms are in place to encourage the commercial development of wind farms without government intervention, he maintains. Rosser notes, though, that government moral support in the form of a decision to practice what it preaches and buy green power would create a paradigm shift towards renewable energy, helping it become part of the mix of electricity sources. Such support would see new renewable energy projects surpass the government's own goal of an extra 2% of electricity from renewable energy by 2010, according to Rosser.

He takes exception to some prices recently quoted for wind energy and says his company's A$ 0.09/kWh rate is based on an excellent site and compares favourably to rates for wind power in Denmark and Germany. To encourage the wind industry, however, Rosser says most wind developers in Australia would need to receive about A$0.13/kWh because other sites on the Australian mainland would not be as favourable as the Victorian site.

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