Elec­tric­ity from thin air

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Clean Energy - Robin Bromby

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

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