The Australia wind energy industry looks set to end its near three-year hiatus, as Origin Energy signed its largest ever power purchase agreement, Thai group Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding said it would be adding 200 megawatts of wind turbine capacity in Australia (to its existing 100MW) over the next few years, and REpower Australia prepared to launch a scaled-down version of a new wind farm in NSW.
Origin Energy and New Zealand’s TrustPower today announced the signing of the PPA in which Origin Energy will be supplied the renewable energy generated by TrustPower’s planned Snowtown II Wind Farm in South Australia.
Snowtown II Wind Farm, will comprise 90 3MW turbines (supplied by Siemens), with an installed capacity of 270MW, and will be located next to TrustPower’s 100MW Snowtown Wind Farm, with which Origin Energy has an existing power purchase agreement.
Origin Energy says that under the terms of the new 15-year agreement, it will be supplied with 100 per cent of the output and RECs from Snowtown II, which is expected to begin operations in 2014. Origin Energy will pay only for the energy and RECS generated by the wind farm.
The development is significant, because while some wind projects – such as AGL Energy’s Macarthur wind farm in Victoria – have been, or are being, built, these were mostly the result of green energy mandates from desalination plants. The Origin-TrustPower deal signals the first major PPA for new build wind farm for several years that has been driven by the renewable energy target – which will require the number of wind turbines in Australia to increase four-to-five fold over next eight years. The 15-year duration of the PPA is also significant.
Indeed, in a statement on Wednesday, the CEO of New Zealand’s North Island-based TrustPower, Vince Hawksworth, credited the Australian government’s commitment to the 20 per cent by 2020 RET for the development of Snowtown I and said it now looked likely to facilitate another “leap foward” with the development of Snowtown II. “We believe that continued support of the Renewable Energy Target will result in further investment to achieve the policy objective,” Hawksworth said. “TrustPower is pursuing additional opportunities in Australia because of that.”
Origin Energy, and other major energy retailers, have been criticised for not being pro-active in the market and supporting new wind farm developments, and raised concerns that the 20 per cent target may not be reached. However, energy markets chief, Frank Calabria, described Origin Energy as an “active investor” in the renewable energy sector and said this new PPA would directly underpin the development of the Snowtown II Wind Farm. “The agreement demonstates our commitment to supporting a range of renewable energy sources and options to meet both our obligations under the Federal Government’s Large Scale Renewable Energy Target and customer demand for cleaner energy,” Calabria said.
Origin Energy currently has nine power purchase agreements in place with wind farm operators in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, representing a total of 457 MW. The signing of the Snowtown II Wind Farm agreement with TrustPower stands to contribute an additional 270 MW.
Snowtown II Wind Farm will be located approximately 160 kilometres north west of Adelaide. Construction is expected to commence later this year, subject to the completion of a number of conditions precedent.
Meanwhile, the CEO of Thai group Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding (Ratch) confirmed on Monday that his company would be adding 200MW of wind turbine capacity in Australia over the next few years. The Bangkok Post reports that the planned expansion, which will cost an estimated $US600 million, will be handled by local subsidiary Ratch-Australia Corporation (RAC).
Ratch CEO, Noppol Milinthanggoon, noted Australia’s strong coastal winds and the government’s full support of renewable energy development as investment incentives. Noppol also said Ratch would spend 1 billion baht in July to raise its investment in RAC – which it acquired from Australia-based Transfield Services Infrastructure – to 80 per cent from its current 68 per cent stake.
And in NSW, the team behind the Rugby Wind Farm is set to propose a scaled-down 52-turbine version of the project near Boorowa NSW, in response to community feedback and the state’s 2011 draft wind farm guidelines. Chris Judd, managing director of REpower Australia, which is co-developing the project with Windlab Systems, said that although the scaled-down wind farm is around 40 per cent smaller than the initial 90 turbine proposal, it could still deliver significant benefits to the local community.
“If approved by the NSW Government, the Rugby Wind Farm would inject over $95 million into the Rugby and Boorowa regions of NSW over the life of the wind farm,” Judd said. “This includes reliable on-farm income for local landowners who host turbines on their property; income that will flow into the region for the next 25 years.” He said the community would also benefit from over $3.6 million allocated to projects through REpower’s Community Benefits Package over the life of the wind farm, as well as the creation of up to 90 jobs during the wind farm’s construction and then around 12 full-time operational jobs when it is up and running.
REpower says the revised wind farm could still produce enough clean energy to power up to 75,400 homes a year, while also cutting up to 3.4 million tonnes of greenhouse pollution by 2020. It would also contribute to the NSW government’s 20 per cent renewables goal.