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Hydro Tasmania in $2 Billion Bid To Build Australia's Largest Wind Farm

Tasmania's King Island is famous for its cheese, lobster and beef. Now it is set to become the home to Australia's biggest wind farm.

Hydro Tasmania wants to build a 600MW wind farm consisting of around 200 turbines, which if approved would transmit more than 5 percent of Australia’s total 2020 renewable energy target into the national grid via a high-voltage direct current underwater cable across Bass Strait to Australia’s state of Victoria.

Initial consultation with the island’s community will begin immediately to seek their feedback over the next three months as part of the pre-feasibility stage. The support of King Islanders is crucial for the project to proceed, the state-owned utility said.

For the past 15 months, Hydro Tasmania has been assessing the wind farm concept on the island to utilize one of the best wind resources in the world, the prevailing Roaring Forties. Work done to date indicated it was broadly feasible from a technical, economic and environmental perspective and the Tasmanian government has expressed its strong support for the project proceeding to the consultation stage.

Estimated to cost around A$2 billion ($2.1 billion), the project comes after the company announced the construction of a A$46 million prototype off-grid power plant that combines solar panels, wind turbines, biodiesel, and energy storage technology.

"While sitting in the path of the world-class wind resource that is the Roaring 40s makes King Island the perfect location for such a project, it is important to emphasise that it is very early days,” company chair David Crean said.

“The project will only proceed to full feasibility if the majority of King Islanders are in favour. That is why we are embarking on a consultation process that aims to set a high standard nationally for engaging with local communities on major renewable energy projects,” he added.

The proposed wind farm – Taswind – would produce approximately 2400 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy for the national market.

The country’s renewable energy industry body, the Clean Energy Council, hailed the proposal as a “welcome display of leadership by one of the industry’s major players”.

“Australia’s southern coastline has some of the strongest winds in the world. We should be making better use of this world-leading renewable energy resource and it’s excellent to see Hydro Tasmania launching a project which is aiming to do just that,” chief executive David Green said.

The proposal comes two years into the right-leaning Liberal-National Coalition came to power in Victoria and virtually killed off any new wind farm development across the state with strict new planning regulations.

If Taswind is approved by the community and government, construction is expected to start in 2017 for a 2019 completion date.

AGL Energy’s 420 MW Macarthur wind farm in Victoria is expected to be the largest in the southern hemisphere when it is fully operating early next year.

Lead image: Commonwealth of Australia via Shutterstock

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