Waubra Wind Farm: community divided

THREE years after its development, the Waubra Wind Farm still divides the broader Ballarat community.

Some locals love the step towards renewable energy, while others believe they're unattractive, impede on country landscapes and cause health issues for those in close proximity.

"Wind farms are so readily accepted in Europe and they're a major part of the energy sector - they have become a part of the landscape," says Waubra site manager Melanie Robertson.

"We're not quite at that stage yet in Australia.

"It's great sometimes driving back to the city of Ballarat at night and seeing lights on and that we're helping to do that - we're creating their electricity."

Earlier this month The Courier was invited to Waubra to learn more about the operation and see inside one of the massive towers.

A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that the farm was forecast to increase the Central Highland's gross regional product by $346 million in the long term, and increase employment in the area by an average of 2.7 per cent - around 1680 full time jobs.

However, not all the news has been positive.

At least two households have relocated from the Waubra region due to health problems believed to be caused by wind turbines.

On the still morning The Courier visited the farm, 123 of the 128 turbines were spinning.

Two of those had been stopped for maintenance work - the turbines are shut off turn when people are inside.

The farm was only operating at 15.5 per cent capacity, due to the winds being around five metres per second, which is quite slow.

"We try and have as many turbines operating as possible at the one time," Ms Robertson said.

"There are few reasons turbines might not be rotating - whether they are in the line of wind from other turbines, wind is below four metres per second, or if there are technicians in the turbine."

Later in the day the wind picked up allowing the turbines to generate 84 per cent of their capacity.

It is rare that the turbines are turned off due to extreme weather conditions.

"Trees would be falling over before we turned them off," Ms Robertson said.

Maintenance supervisor Cameron Stowe said being a turbine technician was not an everyday job.

"The techs have to base their job around wind conditions and other weather conditions," he said.

"If we have lightning in the area, it's tools-down and back to the maintenance facility here."

When the Waubra Wind Farm began development, it was the biggest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere. Other larger farms have since been erected.

Ms Robertson said one of the biggest myths surrounding wind farms was that they required electricity to spin the blades.

"We rely on the wind,” she said.

“They're complex and clever machines that can turn themselves. There's no magic that happens up there.”



































Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop