The prospect of wind turbine manufacture starting up in Australia is not synonymous with the start of an industry boom, warns Dennis Williams, the Australian agent of NEG Micon. The Danish wind turbine maker has secured a framework agreement to supply Melbourne-based renewable energy developer Pacific Hydro with up to 400, 1.5 MW turbines over a four-year period (Windpower Monthly, March 2002). The size of the order is sufficient to kick-start turbine manufacturing in Australia, but Williams points out that while local fabrication offers significant benefits, it represents only one aspect of the market. Australia's system of renewable energy certificates and regional differences in planning processes also affect the viability of projects. Whether local manufacture starts is dependent on a positive outcome of the permitting process for a 120 turbine project at Portland, Victoria, a decision due in June or July. The Portland Wind Energy Project, together with the already approved 50 turbine Challicum Hills project, also in Victoria, brings Pacific Hydro's initial order to 170 turbines. David Hastings of Pacific Hydro says the push for local manufacture is not due to cost advantages, but rather a commitment to the local economy where the company's projects are expected to create more than 2000 direct and indirect jobs. He expects the manufacturing capacity will increase in stages, with low-tech components such as the nacelle cover being introduced first. As confidence in Australian manufacturing grows, up to 90% of the turbines will be produced locally. The Portland region is a likely location for the facility. NEG Micon has also been selected as preferred turbine supplier in Australia by two further electricity retailers, both located in South Australia. Ausker Energies is seeking 50 MW for its Tungketta Hill project and Tarong Energy has picked NEG Micon for its proposed 30 MW Starfish Hill project, which is awaiting final development approval.
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Senior Renewable Energy Analyst (WindGEMINI Product Lead) DNV GL Bristol (City Centre), City of Bristol