Wind power is currently the cheapest source of large-scale renewable energy. It involves generating electricity from the naturally occurring power of the wind.

Wind turbines capture wind energy within the area swept by their blades. They produce a power output proportional to the air density and the wind speed cubed. The spinning blades drive an electrical generator that produces electricity for export to the grid.

Wind energy in Australia: 2014 in focus

Starfish Hill Wind Farm, South Australia

Starfish Hill Wind Farm, South Australia

In 2014, Australia's wind farms produced over 30 per cent of the country's clean energy. Wind power supplied 4.2 per cent of Australia's overall electricity during the year.

Australia had 1866 wind turbines spread across 71 wind farms at the end of 2014. Three wind farms with a combined power generation capacity of 566.7 megawatts (MW) were completed in 2014 and a further five wind farms remained in progress early in 2015 and are expected to be completed in 2015.

Installed wind energy in Australia by state (as at end of 2014)

State Number of projects
South Australia 17
Victoria 14
Western Australia 21
New South Wales 10
Tasmania 7
Queensland 2
Northern Territory 0
Australian Capital Territory 0
  71

 

TrustPower's Snowtown 2 project, completed in 2014, is the second largest wind farm in Australia behind AGL's Macarther Wind Farm in western Victoria.

South Australia has the most wind farms of any state, with approximately 40 per cent of its electricity demand being satisfied by wind power during 2014.

Wind farms and the Australian economy

A 2012 study by SKM on the economic benefits of wind farms in Australia found that, for every 50 MW in capacity, a wind farm delivered the following benefits:

  • Direct employment of up to 48 construction workers, with each worker spending approximately $25,000 in the local area in shops, restaurants, hotels and other services – a total of up to $1.2 million
  • Direct employment of around five staff – a total annual input of $125,000 spent in the local economy
  • Indirect employment during the construction phase of approximately 160 people locally, 504 state jobs and 795 nationwide jobs
  • Up to $250,000 per year for farmers in land rental income and $80,000 on community projects each year.

Wind farms and communities

The majority of Australians are big fans of wind power. Even so, it is vitally important for wind farm companies to engage in good faith with people living in the vicinity of wind power projects.

To help promote a high standard of community consultation across the industry, the Clean Energy Council has developed best practice community engagement guidelines and a community expectations guide for wind farms.

The future of wind energy in Australia

Wind power is the lowest cost renewable energy technology that can be rolled out on a large scale. The national Renewable Energy Target provides an incentive to build the lowest cost renewable energy projects, meaning that wind power is likely to be the main technology supported by the target this decade.

Australia's wind energy sector will deliver thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment if the Renewable Energy Target is left alone to do its job.

Sources:

  • Clean Energy Australia Report 2014
  • Clean Energy Council Renewable Energy Database