Electricity from thin air
EVENTS are moving swiftly on the wind energy front. In mid- May the generating company Roaring 40s brought into operation the final stage of its Woolnorth wind farm in north- eastern Tasmania. Twenty- five new towers and turbines are working, each turbine having a generating capacity of 3 megawatts, adding to the 37 machines that were commissioned in 2003. The power project has cost $ 170 million and has a total capacity of 150MW.
At the same time Australia’s largest retail energy supplier, AGL Energy, acquired the development rights to a 71MW wind farm in South Australia. The proposed Hallett Hill project will be located just 20km from the 95MW Hallett wind farm now being built by AGL at a cost of $ 236 million.
By the end of the decade, AGL hopes to be operating 134 wind turbines in South Australia with a combined capacity of 255MW. And it has under consideration investment in a further 400MW of wind generation.
Over in the west, Perth- based Verve Energy is carrying out a feasibility study on expanding its wind farm at Albany which now supplies 70 per cent of the power consumed by the West Australian port city.
Pacific Hydro, which has already built two wind farms in Victoria, has on its planning board a second stage at Portland, along with the 115MW and up to 140MW Crowlands projects in that state as well as two wind farms totalling 117MW in South Australia.
According to the Australian Wind Energy Association ( Auswind), there are 817MW of installed wind capacity in this country and another 6785MW proposed.
The move to wind will be underpinned by the new Auswind accreditation scheme for wind farms. This will provide assurance to communities that certified wind farms under the scheme not only comply with regulatory requirements, but are safe and reliable, and economically, environmentally and socially sustainable, according to the agency.
With money from the Department of Environment and Water and the Australian Greenhouse Office, the Auswind accreditation scheme is aimed at providing a mechanism through independent audit and certification for Australian wind farms under development, construction and operation to demonstrate their commitment to world’s best practice.
Many of the existing wind installations are small and provide power for a restricted use or locality; others are — while nowhere near the capacity of a large coal- fired baseload station — making a serious contribution to the grid supply.
And, unlike hydro and coal power, the wind farms are not affected by the drought and shortage of water. They also save on greenhouse gas emissions: a 1MW turbine, for example, provides enough electricity for 300 homes and, just as critically, saves more than 2000 tonnes a year of greenhouse gas that would be emitted if that power came from a coal- fired station. AGL’s Hallett Hill in South Australia is expected to abate 250,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
The bigger stations include Pacific Hydro’s 52.5MW Challicum Hills operation in Victoria, the 66MW Cathedral Rocks station operated by Roaring 40s near Port Lincoln in South Australia, the Babcock & Brown Wind Partners 89.1MW Alinta wind station near Geraldton in Western Australia and its 80.5MW operation at Lake Bonney near Mt Gambier ( and where the stage two development will bring the total capacity to 159MW next year).
Another important installation in the west is the 80MW Emu Downs wind farm, a joint development between Stanwell Corp and Griffin Energy.
NSW and Queensland have still to commit to large wind projects. EnergyAustralia has a 600- kilowatt wind turbine at Kooragang Island in Newcastle, while Eraring Energy operates the 4.8MW wind farm at Crookwell near Goulburn which was connected to the national grid in 1998, and a 15- turbine farm south of Orange at Blayney ( 9.9MW).
Wind power: Capacity for 817MW already installed