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The Many Rewards of Reaping the Wind


The government’s renewable-energy targets are helping drive a bright future for wind power, writes Christopher Talbot.
The hypnotising spin of giant white wind turbines is a common sight along Australia’s rugged coastline.
They are a significant contributor to Australia’s clean-energy future–and also represent a stable return for investors, with infrastructure assets that
Deliver long-term results.
The Australian government last year settled on reforms to the Renewable Energy Target, with a target of large-scale generation of 33,000 gigawatt-hours by 2020 (or 23.5 percent of the nation’s power).
This has delivered certainty to renewable energy companies and investors, and made Australia a far more attractive place to do business.
With the cost of renewable energy continuing to fall, it’s also the lowest-cost form of new energy generation in Australia, according to the Clean Energy Council.
Last year, Australia’s wind farms produced 33.7 percent of the country’s clean energy and supplied just under 5 percent of the overall electricity.
Kane Thornton, chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, says the wind energy industry in
Australia is heating up after a tough couple of years.
“With policy certainty around the renewable energy targets now locked in, no matter what the outcome of the election is onJuly2,we’regoing to have a leader who is a strong supporter of renewable energy,” Thornton says.
“So the industry is in a great position, with a lot of optimism about the future, and that’s all starting to translate into investment.”
Five wind farms became operational in Australia in2015,adding196 turbine and 380 megawatts of generating capacity. These additional projects took the Australian wind industry to a total of 76 wind farms with a combined capacity of 4187 megawatts–that’s2062turbines.
The largest wind turbine manufacturer globally in 2015 was Goldwind, a Chinese company that has been investing in the Australian renewable energy market since2009, under the wholly-owned subsidiary Goldwind Australia.
Goldwind, along with CECWPC–which is majority owned by the China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group– began construction of the 175MW White Rock Wind Farm in May. It will be larger than any wind farm now operating in NSW.
White Rock Wind Farm will produce sufficient clean renewable energy to power about 75,000 homes in the northern NSW electorate of New England, with project investment to exceed $400 million.
Goldwind says its decision to invest in the White Rock Wind Farm was largely due to the government’s commitment to renewable energy targets. "The investment in White Rock Wind Farm is being made on the basis of the Australian government’s legislated renewable energy target," says John Titchen, Goldwind Australia’s managing director.
"The clear bipartisan support by the government and the opposition has been an important factor in making this investment commitment."
About 130 people are employed on the construction of the White Rocks project, and the workforce is expected to peak about 200. Wind farm construction injects significant cash-flow into regional town sand cities, and land owners stand to benefit greatly by agreeing to house turbines on their properties.
But there are many hurdles to jump before securing the tender for a new wind farm. Years of testing go into each business plan to ensure viability. Companies need to perform long-term wind testing at the proposed site, and secure agreements with land owners, government sand communities.
The CEC says communities that welcome wind farms experience a big boom in the local economy:
“Once people separate fact from fiction, there’s no question that community support for wind farms remains very strong,’’ Thornton says.
Goldwind Australia says Australia has a highly competitive, buoyant market, with renewable energy now the largest growth sector for electricity supply.
“By 2020 we expect there to be an additional 4000 to5000 megawatts of wind installed in Australia to meet the renewable energy target,’’Titchen says.
Goldwind is also co-locating wind and solar projects, making use of the land around wind turbines and installing solar panels to create a renewable energy double-whammy.
"This creates some synergy where the infrastructure of the wind farm can be shared with the solar project," Titchen says.
"That way you get two uses out of the infrastructure and we think this is quite a wise way to get the best use out of it."
Last week Goldwind Australia received approval for solar installation at the White Rock site, and it plans to go down the same path at its Gullen Range Wind Farm.
With political support and policy certainty, the wind industry appears set to continue its growth as Australia pushes toward sits 2020 renewable energy target.

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