Australia’s wind energy industry chalked up a couple of small victories over the weekend, with the turning of the sod at the site of the 175MW White Rock Wind Farm in Glen Innes, NSW.
The event, on Saturday, marks a milestone for the $400 million wind farm, which is finally being built after years stuck in development limbo.
As we have noted here before, White Rock was the first major wind project to be approved after the passage of the new RET, since which time its Chinese owners, Goldwind, sold a 75 per cent share in the project to fellow Chinese firm CECEP Wind-Power Corporation (CECWPC) – a deal that enabled construction to proceed.
The first stage of construction will install 70 2.5MW turbines, although planning approval has been granted for 119 in total, which will be constructed in stages. Once complete, it will be NSW’s largest wind farm.
The second small victory can be spotted in the image below (and in this video), which depicts a certain Barnaby Joyce – Australia’s deputy PM and the Member for New England – shovel in hand, turning the sod for a wind farm that, just one Prime Minister ago, he might easily have objected to.
Joyce, who has repeatedly questioned the science of climate change, as well as the need to respond to it, has not always been wind energy’s number one fan – he once demanded to know “what this insane lemming-like desire to go to renewables” was going to do to Australia’s economy.
For whatever reason – but quite possibly an election campaign and a challenge by former member and renewable energy enthusiast Tony Windsor – this attitude appears to have changed.
“The project at White Rock will drive innovation and create the jobs of the future, while delivering a financial benefit from the investment of public money,’ Joyce said at the wind farm’s launch last month.
“(It) will be a fantastic boost for the local economy as it is expected to employ up to 200 people during the construction phase and generate 10 full-time positions over a 20 year period.
“This and other clean energy projects proposed for the region will ensure the New England is a major player in the field …and clean energy is essential to meet our emissions reduction targets.”
Indeed, according to the Northern Daily Leader, White Rock is expected to be worth about $35 million to the area around Glen Innes during construction.
More than that, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said the groundbreaking ceremony was an important symbolic step for the region.
“Except for some defunct hydro schemes, this region has always been an energy importer,” he said.
“First with the Moree Solar Farm, and now with White Rock Wind Farm, we are at last using resources freely available to us to generate energy and keep jobs and revenue here, where the benefit is local.
“Germany has nearly four times Australia’s population living in just 5 per cent of Australia’s area,” he said.
“If it can generate nearly all its energy from renewables, we can too.”