Ballarat region ready to capitalise on demise of coal

Committee for Ballarat chief executive Melanie Robertson says the Ballarat region is perfectly placed to capitalise on the demise of coal as Victoria’s primary energy source. 

Victoria’s largest energy source may shut up shop in 2017, with Fairfax Media reporting earlier this month French owners Engie may shut the Hazelwood Power Station as soon as April. 

A turbine at the Hepburn Wind facility.

A turbine at the Hepburn Wind facility.

The Ballarat region is currently home to four operating wind farms which produce 333 megawatts of power, the largest located at Waubra. 

A further four projects, including the 149-turbine Stockyard Hill farm near Skipton, could be up and running as early as 2020. 

Ms Robertson, who has previously worked for WestWind and the Acciona-owned Waubra wind farm, said the Ballarat region had a number of geographical advantages, which put it in the box seat to benefit from increased investment in renewable energy.

“Not only do you need the wind resource but you also need it to be close to a population centre, both of which Ballarat has,” Ms Robertson said. 

Ms Robertson said Committee for Ballarat had spoken with manufacturing businesses around Ballarat about how their workforce could be able to contribute to a growing renewable sector in the region, with a particular focus on wind energy. 

While there is currently no dedicated course in Australia on operating and maintaining wind turbines, Ms Robertson said Ballarat was also in a prime position to produce workers for the industry. 

“The transition (to renewable energy) is going to happen and with Committee for Ballarat we’re looking for long-term, high-paying jobs,” Ms Robertson said.  

“(Wind) is quite labour intensive, so we’ve got the ability to transition and move from manufacturing to a hub for renewable energy.” 

The manager of the National Centre for Sustainability at Federation University, Craig Hurley, said while no one region would be able to entirely account for the potential loss of the Hazelwood plant, Ballarat was well situated to play a big role in a decentralised, post-coal energy system.