Central Highlands wind industry to capitalise on state renewable energy target

Mammoth: Mount Mercer is home to one of the region's biggest wind farms.  It's 64 turbines generate enough power for 73,000 households.  Picture: Kate Healy.

Mammoth: Mount Mercer is home to one of the region's biggest wind farms. It's 64 turbines generate enough power for 73,000 households. Picture: Kate Healy.

The Central Highlands region stands to be the big winner from the Victorian government’s ambitious new emissions target which aims to slash the state’s emissions by 15-20 per cent on 2005 levels by 2020. 

The target which stipulates 25 per cent of energy production comes from renewable sources by 2020 puts the region in the box seat as the potential home of wind energy for the state. 

Deputy director of the Melbourne Energy Institute doctor Roger Dargaville said while wind power cannot completely replace the outgoing Hazelwood coal power station, it will be the preferred method for reaching the state and federal renewable energy targets. 

“The incentive at the moment (from renewable energy targets) is to get the cheapest form of generation and put out the biggest hours,” Dr Dargaville said.  “At the moment wind is the cheapest form of zero-carbon electricity and we know there are terrific wind resources in the (Central Highlands) area.”

It comes after renewable energy giant WestWind announced its plan to propose a 200-240-turbine farm near Rokewood last week, which if given the green light would be the biggest of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

Other mammoth projects throughout the region include the 149-turbine Stockyard Hill project near Beaufort and the 107-turbine Moorabool Wind Farm, which is due to begin construction this year. 

SCROLL OUT TO SEE WHAT WINDFARMS EXIST AND WHAT IS ON THE WAY

Committee for Ballarat chief executive Melanie Robertson, who previously managed the Waubra Wind Farm, said investment in wind throughout the region was now a given and it was up to community leaders to capitalise on it. 

“The premier is talking about creating 11,000 new jobs through renewable energy and 90 per cent of those are going to come out of regional Victoria,” Ms Robertson said.  

“It’s important that leaders throughout our region have a strong, united voice around it and we encourage developers to come to the area.” 

Ms Robertson said Committee for Ballarat was working with Federation University to develop a wind turbine technician TAFE course which would be the first of its kind in the county.  

The recent project announcements come during a start to the federal parliamentary year which has seen energy policy placed at the forefront of debate.  

Driven by recent power outages in renewable energy leader South Australia, government leaders including Treasurer Scott Morrison and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce have pledged their support for coal’s continued presence in the nation’s energy mix. 

Ditchy's view:  Committee for Ballarat is calling on leaders throughout the Central Highlands region to embrace wind investment.

Ditchy's view: Committee for Ballarat is calling on leaders throughout the Central Highlands region to embrace wind investment.

The Minerals Council of Australia has also championed ‘clean coal’ with carbon capture storage technology as a viable investment option as older coal-fired plants such as Hazelwood leave the grid. 

However power giants such as Energy Australia, which operates the coal-fired Yallourn plant in the Latrobe Valley, have called for bi-partisan commitment around renewable investment.  

Chief executive of clean energy provider Powershop Ed McManus said investors were already driving the shift to renewables by refusing to invest in old technology.  

“What is happening is the four big coal-fired power stations in Victoria are coming to the end of their lives, and they either need to be refurbished or we need to find alternatives,” Mr McManus said.  

“The companies running these stations are committing to not refurbishing them, so the transition (to renewables) will happen anyway.”