The fate of the first major wind turbine in New South Wales has taken another turn, after Ausgrid was presented with a plan by a Newcastle community energy group to sell discounted electricity to local surf clubs.
The Kooragang Island wind turbine had been destined for demolition to make way, ironically, for the expansion of the local coal port, but has become something of a “cause celebre” for local green energy groups.
CLEANaS, the Clean Energy Association of Newcastle and Surrounds, has tendered to Ausgrid to take possession of wind turbine, working with AGL Energy to sell the output to local surf clubs.
Notably, it was the first commercial wind generation project in Australia to become accredited under the former national GreenPower project.
It’s future has been in doubt since it was revealed two years ago that the turbine’s concrete footings overlapped plans for a future ship turning bay, or swing basin, in the area.
If this tender is successful, the turbine could feasibly stay where it is for several years and continue to generate clean renewable energy. CLEANaS has plans to set up an entity to take ownership of the turbine, and would manage the arrangements on a voluntary basis.
Under the new proposal, Newcastle based CWP Renewables will operate the turbine for free, using staff from their Newcastle office, selling power to AGL who then pass on the electricity at discounted rates to the Hunter surf clubs.
This will lower operating costs and enable the clubs to direct more of their own funds towards lifesaving equipment, training and other infrastructure. Vestas, will carry out a pro-bono maintenance check and continue with maintenance of the turbine.
The Vestas V44-600kW turbine can generate about 900,000 kilowatt hours of renewable energy per year, or enough to power 150 homes for a year.
Hunter Surf Lifesaving CEO, Rhonda Scruton, is delighted that the clubs would benefit if this plan comes to fruition.
“Hunter Surf Lifesaving’s thirteen clubs and 7,500 members appreciate the opportunity to save hard earned raised funds on electricity charges, to invest in essential Rescue Equipment, Training and infrastructure for members.”
CLEANaS co-founder, Dr Richard Finlay-Jones, is also hopeful that Ausgrid will look favourably upon the bid.
“We have to respect that this is a formal tender process, and Ausgrid will have assessment criteria to work with,” he said in a statement.
“We think that our bid is strong as it achieves the ownership transfer that Ausgrid is seeking, whilst hopefully allowing the turbine to stay where it is and keep providing renewable energy for the surf clubs. It’s a win all around” he said.
AGL General Manager, Marketing and Retail Sales, Mark Brownfield said AGL was pleased to be supporting this tender and to be partnering with CLEANaS and Hunter Surf Lifesaving.
“This is a great opportunity for influential companies to work together to deliver a great outcome for the community. We recognise the important role surf lifesaving clubs plays in keeping our beaches safe and bringing the local community together and we hope our support will free up funds for new infrastructure for the Hunter’s thirteen clubs.”