Fledgling sector gets going -- Finally moving in Australia

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Early last year the Australian Wind Energy Association's newly announced target of 100 MW of wind power by 2002 looked overly optimistic. Nearly 12 months later, installed capacity has more than doubled from 11 MW to 33.5 MW, international companies are setting up partnerships and local production, and more than 500 MW of wind plant is in various stages of resource monitoring, planning or approval. Today, AusWEA's target appears far more achievable.

The 22.5 MW put on-line last year came mainly from two projects, one at Windy Hill and the other at Blayney (table). More sizeable plant is on the way, including 18 MW and 22 MW projects from Pacific Hydro and Western Power. Wind farm development has reached five of Australia's states, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania. Recently proposed developments have seen the southern coastal regions of Victoria and South Australia as well as the north-eastern coast of Tasmania emerge as possible sites for large scale wind projects.

The retail market for electricity from wind power has continued to grow. Nationwide, 15 accredited green power products are available. In the last year, the number of customers has increased 50%, according to a 1999-2000 report from the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA). Total energy sales fell just short of 300 GWh, up from 136 GWh in the previous period and representing a jump in revenue from A$6.7 million to over A$20 million. Solar and wind accounted for 4.4% of total green power sales -- a slight increase from the previous year -- and 60% of green sales from newly built renewable energy plant. Regulation is in force that requires green power retailers to increase their proportion of sales from new generation to 70% in 2001 and 80% by 2002.

Since late 1999, joint ventures have brought international investment to the country. Last year, Britain's Wind Prospect, Danish/American EnXco and the International Wind Co of the US joined forces to form Wind Prospect Pty, a developer which has now secured site options on 150 MW of leases. And the Australian Bolwell Corp bought 50% of Polymarin Huron Composites, a Canadian manufacturer of rotor blades, paving the way for a totally Australian manufactured large-scale wind turbine.

In the arena of government policy, the legislation mandating a 2% increase in renewable energy's share of Australia's national electricity supply, finally passed last year, is so full of holes as to be virtually useless, according to the wind lobby. Other market players, however, are not so pessimistic.

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