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: 2015 in focus

Starfish Hill Wind Farm, South Australia

Starfish Hill Wind Farm, South Australia

In 2015, Australia's wind farms produced 33.7 per cent of the country's clean energy and supplied 4.9 per cent of Australia's overall electricity during the year.

Five wind farms became operational in 2015, adding 196 turbines and 380 MW of generating capacity. These additional projects took the Australian wind industry to a total of 76 wind farms with a combined capacity of 4187 MW, made up of 2062 turbines.

The ACT Government’s reverse auction scheme has generated considerable interest across the industry, and the three successful projects from the first round – Hornsdale, Ararat and Coonooer Bridge – were under construction as 2015 drew to a close.

The 100 MW second stage of the Hornsdale Wind Farm and the 100 MW Sapphire Wind Farm have been announced as the successful projects in the ACT auction’s second round of funding.

Wind farms under construction at end 2015

Owner Location Expected commission year Capacity (MW)
RES Australia Ararat, VIC 2017 240
Neoen Hornsdale Stage 1, SA 2017 105.6
Windlab Coonooer Bridge, VIC 2016 19.8

 

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.

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