New Vic­to­rian wind­farm could pro­vide 10% of state's en­ergy

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Lisa Cox

The manag­ing direc­tor of a com­pany that plans to con­struct Vic­to­ria’s largest wind­farm says the project will sup­ply enough power to re­place up to a third of the gen­er­a­tion of the de­com­mis­sioned Hazel­wood power sta­tion at less than $50/MWh.

The Vic­to­rian gov­ern­ment has granted a plan­ning per­mit for WestWind En­ergy’s $1.5bn Golden Plains wind­farm, which will be­come one of the largest wind­farms in the south­ern hemi­sphere.

The project is now await­ing fed­eral ap­proval to pro­ceed.

The wind­farm would span 17,000 hectares on land 60km north-west of Gee­long and gen­er­ate more than 3000 gi­gawatt hours of elec­tric­ity per year – enough to power more than 400,000 homes.

To­bias Geiger, the manag­ing direc­tor of WestWind En­ergy, said the large scale project would be able to sup­ply en­ergy at low cost.

“With this very large project and very good wind re­source, com­bined with the lat­est wind tur­bine tech­nol­ogy that’s now avail­able, we can achieve a lev­elised cost of en­ergy for this project that is below $50 per MW/h,” he said.

“If you put that into the con­text of elec­tric­ity mar­ket prices from Vic­to­ria which for the past two years have hov­ered around $80 to $120 per MW/h, you can see the sig­nif­i­cance of this project for driv­ing down elec­tric­ity prices for all Vic­to­ri­ans.”

The com­pany has be­gun de­tailed de­sign work and an ap­pli­ca­tion for grid con­nec­tion through the Aus­tralian En­ergy Mar­ket Op­er­a­tor.

That process will take about a year be­fore con­struc­tion could com­mence.

The Vic­to­rian gov­ern­ment’s ap­proval of the project re­quires the com­pany to in­crease the tur­bine-free buf­fer area to pro­tect nest­ing grounds used by na­tive brolga birds.

That will re­duce the orig­i­nal pro­posal from 228 tur­bines and may re­sult in a re­duc­tion to 181 tur­bines. Geiger said on Satur­day the com­pany es­ti­mated it would con­struct around 200 tur­bines.

“We’re fac­ing very ex­cit­ing times for re­new­able en­ergy and in par­tic­u­lar the tran­si­tion from ther­mal gen­er­a­tion to re­new­ables,” he said.

“The Golden Plains wind­farm will re­place about one third of the gen­er­a­tion of the Hazel­wood power sta­tion. Prob­a­bly within the next three or four years, the gap that was left by Hazel­wood will be well and truly filled.”

The An­drews gov­ern­ment has in­creased Vic­to­ria’s re­new­able en­ergy tar­get to 50% by 2030.

“This project will cre­ate hun­dreds of lo­cal jobs, re­duce green­house emis­sions and gen­er­ate enough elec­tric­ity to power more than 400,000 homes – boost­ing sup­ply and putting down­ward pres­sure on power prices,” the act­ing plan­ning min­is­ter Lily D’am­bro­sio said.

Si­mon Holmes à Court, a senior ad­vi­sor at the Cli­mate and En­ergy Col­lege at Mel­bourne Univer­sity, said big­ger tur­bines, bet­ter sites, economies of scale and more com­pet­i­tive fi­nanc­ing “have lit­er­ally halved the cost of of wind en­ergy”.

“At $50/MWh — just 5 cents per kWh — the Golden Plains wind­farm will pro­duce power for less than the mar­ket cost of fuel alone for many coal and all gas power sta­tions,” he said.

“And it’s big — ex­pected to pro­vide be­tween 8–10% of Vic­to­ria’s en­ergy.”

Pho­to­graph: Bloomberg via Getty Im­ages

Golden Plains wind farm could re­place a third of the en­ergy sup­ply of the de­com­mis­sioned Hazel­wood power sta­tion.

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