Australian Wind Power Under Fire

Once seen as the most viable alternative to fossil fuel generated electricity in Australia, wind power is drawing criticism from some who object to the location of the giant turbines.

VICTORIA, Australia 2002-02-14 [SolarAccess.com] Victoria’s first wind farm was opened at Codrington, west of Port Fairy, last year. Queensland’s Stanwell Corporation is building a 12-turbine wind farm at Toora, in south Gippsland, and wind generators have been proposed at more than a dozen sites along Victoria’s far-west and inner-east coasts. This most recent push for more wind farms follows federal legislation requiring the generation of 9500 gigawatt hours of extra renewable electricity a year by 2010. While objectors cite concerns such as visual impact, noise levels and the potential threat to bird life, wind power advocates point out that it is emission free, has minimal impact on existing land use and can be easily decommissioned. Pacific Hydro Ltd. says its Codrington wind farm which consists of 14 turbines, will provide enough energy for more than 14,000 homes. But Tim Farrell, a spokesman for the Prom Coast Guardians – a residents’ group opposed to wind farm developments near Wilson’s Promontory – said that, while he supported the production of wind energy in “benign” locations, wind farms don’t produce base-loading power so they don’t reduce energy use. He said, at the most, wind generators run at only 30 percent of their theoretical capacity. Australian Wind Energy Association president Heinz Dahl said that the international standard for wind generators was that they run at maximum capacity at least 35 per cent of the time. He estimates the turbines at Codrington operate at maximum capacity about 40 percent of the time. Dahl said wind energy, which is not used for base-load power, is competitive with fossil-fuel energy in terms of cost effectiveness and four or five times more cost effective than producing energy using solar photovoltaic cells. Farrell said alternatives such as installing solar-heated hot water systems in every household were more cost effective and green friendly. He cites information from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Victoria that shows that the installation of solar hot water systems in place of electric-powered systems would save five tons of carbon dioxide emission per household every year and up to 20 percent off power bills. The largest proposed wind farm project is in the state’s far south-west where Pacific Hydro plans a $300 million wind farm. The proposal would see 120 wind generators divided between four sites at Yambuk, Cape Bridgewater, Cape Nelson and Cape Sir William Grant.

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