Crookwell 2 wind farm opens, in win for local farmers and ACT power prices

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Crookwell wind farm opens in the heart of Angus Taylor’s electorate – but the energy minister, a long time anti-wind campaigner, did not attend the opening.

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The Australian Capital Territory reached another major renewable energy milestone over the weekend, with the official opening of the 91MW Crookwell 2 wind farm near Goulburn in the Canberra region.

The wind farm was officially launched on Saturday, although it had been generating into the grid for some time, marking the first such project in Australia for developer Global Power Generation, and the latest of many to have been built off the back of the ACT government’s commitment to source 100 per cent of its electricity from renewables.

In comments on the weekend, climate and sustainability minister Shane Rattenbury said the wind farm would generate around 300,000MWh of energy a year, and contribute roughly 10 per cent to the territory’s renewables target.

The government will buy the wind power at a price of $86.60 per megawatt-hour, through a contract that spans the next 20 years. For the record, at the time of writing, the wholesale price on the NEM ranged from $102.82/MWh to $109.72.

The wind farm is notable for being the (much) bigger and younger sibling of the original 5MW Crookwell wind farm, which – commissioned in 1998 – was the first wind farm in New South Wales and an important demonstration project for the industry.

Crookwell 2 is also notable for exactly where it is located – some of the wind farm’s 28 GE turbines are being hosted on the sheep farm of Goulburn local and long-time wind energy supporter and campaigner, Charlie Prell.

In a Tweet on Saturday, Australian Wind Alliance national coordinator Andy Bray said the launch of Crookwell 2 marked the end of an almost two decades-long journey for Prell to get turbines on his property.

As we reported here, Prell was one of a number of local farmers to confront former deputy PM Barnaby Joyce about the Coalition’s lack of support for wind energy, at a sod-turning ceremony for the Glen Innes wind farm in mid-2016.

“There’s no support for wind turbines if they are not in the electorate of New England,” Prell said at the time.

“That’s really disappointing for me as a farmer because I know wind turbines can be the difference for me being a sustainable farmer who can survive long term and a failed farmer who is putting his hand out for the government support that Barnaby announced today.”

A year later, when the contract to supply and install the turbines for Crookwell 2 was secured, Prell described it as a “game changer” for him and other landowners.

“It gives you the financial flexibility to change your stocking rate, to spell pastures, to manage water courses much more sustainably and environmentally because you’ve got the passive income stream and you’re not reliant on the income from the stock, which is totally related to the weather conditions and the pasture conditions,” he said.

“This project is the end of an incredibly long 18-year journey for …Prell, from the first time he was approached by a wind developer to the first spin of a turbine on his property,” said Bray in comments to RE on Monday.

“His patience, and that of his fellow landholders, has finally been rewarded.

Bray noted that the project had been a “boon” for the local economy, with civil construction works alone injecting $12.3 million into local businesses for earthmoving, concreting, fencing, cranes and steel.

“A community fund will support local projects with $70,000 every year for the next 25 years, including contributions to a long term fund, the Upper Lachlan Foundation, that will hold funds for long term community investment, even beyond the life of the wind farm,” Bray said.

Finally, Crookwell 2 is noteworthy for being smack-bang in the federal electorate of Hume, which happens to belong to federal energy minister Angus Taylor, a vocal opponent of wind energy, despite his recent claims of support for “fair dinkum power.”

Taylor did not attend the wind farm opening.

“Once again, the ACT is leading the way by reaching key milestones as we progress towards our ambitious clean energy future,” Rattenbury said on Saturday.

“As we have seen with other renewables projects, the Crookwell 2 wind farm is also delivering significant flow-on benefits to Canberra and the region.”

Hornsdale 2 wind farm, in South Australia, is set to delivering power to the ACT later this year, and the third stage of that project will do so from early next year, bringing the ACT to 100 per cent renewables. Both plants have been operating already, but on a “merchant” basis for their majority owner, Neoen.

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