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: 2017 in focus

Starfish Hill Wind Farm, South Australia

Starfish Hill Wind Farm, South Australia

In 2017, Australia's wind farms produced 33.8 per cent of the country's clean energy and supplied 5.7 per cent of Australia's overall electricity during the year. For the first time ever, 2017 saw wind contribute an almost identical amount of Australian electricity as hydro energy. 

Six wind farms became operational in 2017, adding 547 MW of new generating capacity, which was the third-highest amount added in the history of the Australian wind industry. These additional projects took the Australian wind industry's total generating capacity to 4816 MW.

The largest project in 2017 was the 240 MW Ararat Wind Farm in Victoria, while the Hornsdale 2 (109 MW) and 3 (100 MW) projects were also significant additions. 

Wind farms under construction and committed at end 2017

Owner Location State Installed capacity (MW)
Powering Australian Renewables Fund Coopers Gap QLD 440
CWP Renewables Sapphire NSW 270
AGL Silverton NSW 199
RATCH-Australia Mt Emerald (Arriga) QLD 181
Goldwind Australia White Rock NSW 175
ACCIONA Mt Gellibrand VIC 132
Engie Willogoleche Hill SA 119
Infigen Bodangora (Wellington) NSW 113
Global Power Generation Crookwell 2 (Goulburn) NSW 91
Pacific Hydro Crowlands VIC 80
Tilt Renewables Salt Creek VIC 58
Windlab/Eurus Hughenden QLD 43
Pacific Hydro Yaloak VIC 29
Future Energy Maroona VIC 6

 

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 the report Enhancing Positive Social Outcomes from Wind Farm Developmentbest 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 current program of works scheduled for the next few years as the industry builds out the Renewable Energy Target will significantly expand the sector's contribution to Australian electricity generation.

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 2018
  • Clean Energy Council Renewable Energy Database