New projects 'could provide A$1.6 billion boost'

AUSTRALIA: Wind farm construction has delivered a boost worth nearly A$4 billion ($3.1 billion) in Australia, according to a new report.

Australian wind farms range in size from a two-turbine community wind farm, Hepburn Wind, to the 140 turbine Macarthur project
Australian wind farms range in size from a two-turbine community wind farm, Hepburn Wind, to the 140 turbine Macarthur project

More than half of this has come in the last five years, and 2GW of new projects currently being built could prompt a further A$1.6 billion in economic activity, the Australian Wind Alliance (AWA) stated.

Projects currently being built have also created approximately 1,950 jobs directly and a further 4,500 jobs further down the supply chain, according to the organisation’s Building Stronger Communities report.

The AWA believes a further A$10.5 billion of value could be created in communities hosting wind farms through job creation, local business activity, and payments to host landholders and neighbours.

"As Australia builds enough new wind power to meet the 2020 Renewable Energy Target (33TWh) and the rapidly falling cost of wind energy drives wind installation strongly thereafter, wind districts through regional Australia will continue to benefit," the report’s authors wrote.

"Sharing financial benefits equitably and effectively will ensure that clean energy generation also makes a long-lasting, positive contribution to rural Australia’s social fabric."

They state that rural towns that traditionally are heavily reliant on agriculture for their local economy benefit from Community Enhancement Funds (CEFs) (voluntary payments made by operators to community groups, programs or projects), and other direct payments to the community.

An example of a CEF is the Sustainable Communities Fund at Pacific hydro’s wind farms in South Western Australia, the AWA stated. This fund has contributed more than A$1.4 million towards more than 300 projects since its establishment in 2005.

Wind farms also currently pay approximately A$17.5 million and A$20 million a year to wind farm hosts through lease payments, the AWA found.

Projects currently under construction will add a further A$12.5 million annually, the organisation added.

The report also claimed that wind farm operators have increasingly offered payments to neighbouring landholders in recent years. This has addressed a "perceived inequality" that project neighbours would not benefit financially, whereas landholders would, the authors explained.

They cite the case of the proposed Palmer wind farm in South Australia, whereby owner Trustpower Australia aims to pay neighbours with a property within one kilometre or a residence within two kilometres of the 300MW site at least A$2,000 per year.

The authors added: "Australia’s 82 operational wind farms deliver significant financial and social benefits to their host communities.

"Sharing these benefits equitably with local host communities ensures these projects generate not just much-needed clean energy, but also strengthen the social and economic fabric of regional Australia."

‘Regional Australia’ refers to areas that lie beyond the country’s major capital cities.

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