Australia’s first community-owned wind farm – the two-turbine, 4.1MW Hepburn Wind project at Leonards Hill, 10km south of Daylesford in Victoria – was today recognised for excellence and awarded the World Wind Energy Award in Canberra.
The wind farm – which, as Hepburn Wind chairman Simon Holmes à Court has pointed out, could not have been built under current Victorian planning laws – was initiated and partly funded by a 1900-member co-operative; most of its members being local to the project.
It first began exporting electricity in June last year – an estimated 12,200MWh annually, enough to power 2300 homes, which is more than the number of homes in Daylesford – and on July 29, operational control of the wind farm was transferred from REpower to Hepburn Wind.
Holmes à Court described the modest project as “the first Australian import of a community-powered model that has proven successful internationally.” A fact that puts Australia behind the global pace, as Holmes à Court pointed out, noting that the US alone has more than 1,500MW of community-owned energy, while in world-leading Denmark, the majority of turbines are at least partially owned by host communities.
Pointing to the growing concern about rising power bills – not to mention climate change – Holmes à Court said there should be serious investigation into how similar renewable co-ops could be rolled out around the country. Already, he said, more that 70 communities around Australia had asked for advice on how to start their own community renewable energy projects.
“Wind power is the cheapest form of utility-scale renewable energy in Australia and it is lowering the cost of electricity in the National Energy Market for all consumers,” he said. “Community-ownership means that profits go back to the community, directly through the almost 2000 investors and in community grants.”
Speaking at the award ceremony, Peter Rae – a former chair of Tasmanian Hydro and current chairman of the International Renewable Energy Alliance – said he hoped the award would encourage Australia’s state and federal governments to support community efforts to access wind power to generate clean and sustainable energy.
According to the World Wind Energy Association’s half-year update in June reported that wind capacity globally had passed the 250,000MW milestone.