New South Wales’ largest wind energy development, the 270MW Sapphire Wind Farm currently under construction near Glen Innes, stands to become Australia’s first community-owned large-scale wind project – if enough local interest in the idea can be found.
The wind farm’s developer, CWP Renewables, will next week launch an online survey to assess the level of community interest in directly investing in the project – a model that has been adopted Europe and North America, but is as-yet untested in Australia at this scale.
The “community investment testing project” is a collaboration between CWP, Akin Consulting, and Starfish Initiatives, who will also host a series of community information and “discovery sessions” across the NSW Tablelands region, on September 4, 5 and 6. (See dates and times below.)
The $588 million Sapphire Wind Farm – the fifth and final winner of the ACT government’s large-scale wind reverse auction – is minority-owned by CWP, and co-financed by Commonwealth Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and EKF, Denmark’s export credit agency, while Partners Group has provided most of the equity funding.
In December last year, the project also secured $120 million in debt finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, allowing construction to begin.
The wind farm, which has also secured a 20-year feed-in tariff from the ACT government for 100MW of its output, has also been notable as one of a relatively new wave of renewables projects to go ahead with much of its output uncontracted, to be sold into the spot market on a merchant basis.
According to the team behind the survey, the wind farm offers an opportunity for local community members to “participate in the financial benefits from the sale of renewable electricity.”
If enough interest is gathered for the idea to proceed, CWP says the investment model is likely to be an unlisted public company limited by shares and would be linked to performance of the Sapphire Wind Farm as a whole (rather than an individual turbine or turbines).
“If there is enough interest in the investment idea for it to proceed, it will be the first project of its type in Australia – even though community investment of this kind in large scale wind projects is a very common model in countries throughout Europe and North America,” it says.
“To have a true account of the community interest we need your help to not only do the survey but also spread the word and pass it on to others.”
The survey will open Monday September 4 and close at 5pm on 31 October 2017. The wind farm is expected to be “progressively completed” by June 2018.