Acciona Energy has broken ground on its 132MW Mt Gellibrand wind farm, a $258 million project in Victoria’s western plains that was fast-tracked after winning a state government tender designed to reboot renewables investment in the state, and side-step a capital strike by major utilities.
At a turning of the sod ceremony at the wind farm’s site, 25km east of Colac, Acciona managing director Andrew Thomson said the company expected to see Mt Gellibrand “pouring” clean energy into the grid within about 15 months – at a time when the nation would be seeking to increase its capacity for renewable power generation.
Thomson said the new wind farm would be a “massive economic driver” for the region over the next 25 years, creating 100 local jobs in the construction phase, and up to 10 operations and maintenance roles continuing for decades ahead.
Of course, generating local jobs and investment was a key aim of the Andrews government tender, alongside meeting its legislated target of 25 per cent renewables by 2020, and 40 per cent by 2025.
Through the tender, Acciona secured the purchase of 66MW of of the farm’s renewable energy certificates, which in turn underpinned a project that promised to see around $10 million directly spent in the Colac Otway Shire.
The purchase agreement is for a period of up to 10 years, with the Victoria government buying the RECs to meet its own obligations towards the federal renewable energy target.
The other winner was the 30MW Kiata project, by Australian company Windlab, near Horsham in western Victoria.
Before those projects, only two new wind farms had been built or begun construction over an 18 month period in the state, including the small Coonooer Bridge wind farm (also by Windlab) and the Ararat wind project, which was fully commissioned this week.
Both of those had won tenders under the ACT government’s reverse auction scheme – a policy lever the Victorian government is now adopting under the guidance of former ACT energy minister, Simon Corbell.
“We can build a strong, sustainable renewable energy industry that powers our broader economy, creates well paid jobs and reduces our environmental impact,” said Victoria’s minister for energy, environment and climate change Lily D’Ambrosio in August last year, when the winning bids were announced.
“We’re proud to be rebuilding much needed confidence in the renewable energy industry following the neglect of Liberal governments at both state and federal levels over recent years.”
Acciona says Mt Gellibrand will also generate long-term and drought-proof income for host landholders, while the company will also establish a Community Benefit Fund to support local groups, sporting organisations and students through grants and scholarships.
“Local content is a feature of our procurement and contracting processes and we are already delighted to be working with local businesses R Slater & Sons, Coragulac Quarries, CCS, Bushys Fencing, Colac Cleaning Services, Hip Pocket Workwear, Baronga Motor Inn and Driscoll Engineering Services as well as Portland’s Keppell Prince,” Thomson said.
Mt Gellibrand will be Acciona’s fourth wind farm in Australia, after Cathedral Rocks (64MW) in South Australia, Waubra (192MW) in Victoria, and Gunning (46.5MW) in New South Wales.