Traditionally host to agriculture, forestry and tourism, the Mt Gellibrand wind farm has brought economic diversity to Victoria’s Western District.
Alex McKenzie, Vice President of the Colac Chamber of Commerce, says that large renewable projects bring multiple benefits to regional economies. The small city located in Victoria’s Western District has experienced this first-hand through the construction of the 44-turbine Mt Gellibrand wind farm.
“With the bigger projects like a wind farm, you’ve got double benefits,” says the long-time Colac resident. “First, they rent the land for the towers themselves - that gives an income to the people who own the property.
“Second, there are the jobs that are created during the build, and we have quite a few people working out there from the local area now that it’s finished.”
He says there are other flow-on effects too, with landowners and employees contributing to the local economy, while the site also attracts visitors.
“You have maintenance crews as well, some local and some from Melbourne and Geelong. When they come here and stay overnight, they stay in the local hotels and bed and breakfasts.”
As a local business owner, McKenzie says the wind farm benefits the whole economy, not just those directly employed in the project.
“I think it is a boost to the economy… I run my own business doing business maintenance, plus I do contract work, and I have a couple of commercial retail buildings that I rent out. So I like to see our retail sector and our community prosper because it benefits me as well.”
Several other wind farms are being built in neighbouring areas, and McKenzie says they would welcome more renewable energy generation in Colac.
“I think most areas would like to see more projects like this,” he says. “We work with [wind farm operator] ACCIONA, they’re a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and they’re a supporter of our local business awards. We’d love to see any other renewable resource companies come here as well.”
Overall, McKenzie believes that encouraging renewable energy generation in Colac is part of having a thriving economy in the long-term.
“Anything that advances and will be beneficial to our community we’re all for it,” he says.
“We can sit here and put our heads in the sand and say there’s no such thing as climate change… [But] If we go forward with alternative energies, if we look at them properly, I think it will be a benefit to all of us.
“I’m not saying it’s the be-all and end-all, but if we all get it right and work together, long term I think it will be better for us as well as our younger people coming along. “