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: 2016 in focus

Starfish Hill Wind Farm, South Australia

Starfish Hill Wind Farm, South Australia

In 2016, Australia's wind farms produced 30.8 per cent of the country's clean energy and supplied 5.3 per cent of Australia's overall electricity during the year.

Five wind farms became operational in 2016, adding 44 turbines and just under 140 MW of generating capacity. These additional projects took the Australian wind industry to a total of 79 wind farms with a combined capacity of 4327 MW, made up of 2106 turbines. These figures place Australia 17th in the world for wind power.

Many states and territories have recognised the regional investment opportunities that wind energy offers, introducing a variety of measures to capture a slice of the pie.

The ACT Government conducted its final reverse wind auction in 2016, which will help it deliver Australia's most ambitious renewable energy target of 100 per cent by 2020. 

The successful projects were Neoen's 109 MW Stage 3 Hornsdale Wind Farm based in South Australia, and Union Fenosa Wind Australia's 91 MW Crookwell 2 wind farm in New South Wales.

Wind farms under construction at end 2016

Owner Location Expected commission year Capacity (MW)
RES Australia Ararat, VIC 2017 240
RATCH Mt Emerald, QLD 2018 180
Goldwind White Rock Stage 1, NSW 2017 175
Neone and Megawatt Capital Hornsdale Stage 3, SA 2017 109
Neone and Megawatt Capital Hornsdale Stage 2, SA 2017 100
Windlab Kiata, VIC 2017 30
Pacific Hydro Yaloak South, VIC 2017 29
EDL Coober Pedy, SA 2017 4

 

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 a key contributing technology supporting the target this decade. Australia's wind energy sector will deliver thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment.

Technological advances in the sector mean that wind turbines are now larger, more efficient and make use of intelligent technology. Rotor diameters and hub heights have increased to capture more energy per turbine. The maturing technology means that fewer turbines will be needed to produce the same energy, and wind farms will have increasingly sophisticated adaptive capability.

Sources:

  • Clean Energy Australia Report 2016
  • Clean Energy Council Renewable Energy Database