<a href="http://www.gmagazine.com.au/blogs/leon#">The Business of Green</a>

The Business of Green

Money matters in the green world, by Leon Gettler.

Wind politics


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Governments in New South Wales and Victoria are showing their contempt for wind power. It’s flying in the face of all the big investment trends and seriously threatens a burgeoning industry.

New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell has expressed his disdain for wind energy saying he hopes the State does not give approval for any more wind farms. He says 19 wind farm applications were received before the election and none since. "I'm told no new applications have been lodged. We haven't approved any applications and if I had my way we wouldn't," O'Farrell said.

So much for a renewable energy policy in Australia’s most populated state.

In Victoria, Premier Ted Baillieu has announced the strictest planning laws for wind farms in Australia that will give households power to veto wind turbines within two kilometres of their homes, ban turbines in the Macedon and McHarg ranges, in the Yarra Valley, on the Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas, and within five kilometres of the Great Ocean Road and the Bass Coast and prohibit them within five kilometres of 21 Victorian regional centres. This will cost Victoria billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. More to the point, it’s easier now to build a coal mine in Victoria than it is to set up a wind farm. The Hepburn Community Wind Farm, which two months ago won an annual Premier's Sustainability Award, would not have been built under Baillieu's more stringent regulations. The farm, operating at Leonard's Hill since June, is expected to generate more than enough power for the town's 2000 homes.

The Clean Energy Council says the Baillieu government decision is not at all science based. It’s catering for vested interests.

Regional communities are now applauding the Baillieu government’s decision, but you do wonder whether they will change their minds. There’s money in wind energy.

About thirty Yorke Peninsula farmers in South Australia will reap an average of $90,000 a year to host wind turbines on their land in a $1.3 billion development. They will earn more money from those wind farms than from their crops. They will get about $15,000 per year for each turbine on their properties. Each turbine requires about half a hectare of space. A wheat crop on the same amount of land would yield about $300. It’s all part of a massive development being put together by Indian wind power company Suzlon Energy.

Wind power is actually a massive investment opportunity. Climate Spectator reports that Brazil is now going through a wind power gold rush and Austrade says that wind energy is a growth market because there’s no shortage of land on the Australian continent for large scale wind farm technology installations. And we already have the skills and expertise here to develop it. At the Antarctic Mawson Base, Australia became the first country in the world to develop significant electricity supply by producing power from the strongest winds on earth.

Wind power does have some problems. It’s highly variable in terms of supply, and output can vary by as much as 70 per cent. There are also issues of cost, finding the right location and commercial viability. But when combined with solar, geothermal and other renewable energies, it’s a powerful part of the mix. Wind energy is the future and governments who restrict it are out of touch with the times and the community.