New England Wind (NEW) has arisen from a vision for long-term energy self-sufficiency for New England. It is the next major community renewable energy initiative for this region, following on the success of the award-winning Farming the Sunproject. NEW will build on the significant take-up of micro-generation (solar power, small wind turbines, solar hot water and solar heating) and small solar farms in New England.
It has been widely recognised over the past decade that new sources of electricity are required to meet the needs of population increases and to replace old power stations. Currently more than 90% of NSW electricity is generated from coal. While reducing coal use and addressing climate change are two drivers for the transition to renewable energy, just as important are the environmental and public health needs for clean energy, produced in ways that won’t undermine agriculture, water, biodiversity or air quality.
This need for ‘new energy’ has also been clearly articulated through the New England Sustainability Strategy, with a vision now emerging for New England, NSW to establish its own regional energy system, satisfy its own energy needs and become a net exporter of renewable energy. More efficient energy use and installation of solar panels and small wind turbines in recent years is just the beginning of the move to renewable energy sources in New England.
The benefits and successes of community-owned wind farms have been proven in many parts of Europe and the US. In Germany and Denmark the majority of wind farms are community-owned (90% in Germany) and in both these countries a significant proportion of total electricity output is generated from wind.
NEW could be the first community-owned renewable energy operation in NSW and only the third in Australia.
Why Wind? Why Here?
New England forms a large part of one of six designated NSW Government Renewable Energy Precincts due to its high level of natural wind resources. Wind energy is currently the most affordable and dependable form of medium to large-scale renewable energy available. To produce the equivalent amount of energy to that of the proposed wind farm using solar panels would require an area of more than 150 acres. In the case of wind turbines, the ground sacrificed is very small, with animals able to happily graze right up to the turbine bases. With solar panels the area would be largely unusable for agriculture.
The other point of difference is cost. Even with significant reductions in the price of solar panels in recent years, solar power is considerably more costly than wind power (in situations where there is a good wind resource available, of course).
Some $10-20Bn of investment into commercial renewable energy projects in Australia is anticipated in the coming decade, with over 1,100 proposed commercial turbines already in planning for New England. This scale of renewable energy establishment is necessary if we are to meet the Australian and NSW Government targets for 20% renewable energy for electricity by 2020 and our goal for new energy in New England.
For a detailed graphical analysis of wind farm performances in Australia, seehttp://windfarmperformance.info/
The first phase of work has been determining whether there is sufficient community support for a community owned wind farm, identifying an appropriate financial and legal structure, and establishing the principles to select appropriate site and size of the wind farm.
A six month Feasibility Study, funded by state government and local organisations, was undertaken to meet these objectives. The results of the completed study show that there is more than sufficient support to build a community wind farm in New England, and that the community is recommending this work now proceed.
The message that came through from the overwhelming majority of people and organisations was to ‘Go for it’! They feel that times have changed and we now need to move beyond coal-fired electricity.
The New England Wind Cooperative (NEW Coop) is now being formed to lead and coordinate the work required to establish a community wind farm in New England. New England residents and businesses will be able to invest in the community wind farm through the cooperative and receive returns from the wind energy produced.
Benefits from the wind farm established by this cooperative will return to the New England community through direct investment as well as via a pre-determined Community Benefits Plan.
NEW will establish a community-owned wind farm of 6-10 turbines (depending on financial considerations and grid capacity), able to produce around half of the residential electricity usage of the New England Region.
Achieving these goals – both establishing NEW and ultimately achieving energy self-sufficiency – will require a large groundswell of support.
In short, we need you! Please consider supporting this initiative. We would greatly welcome your involvement!
Please follow the links for further details of New England Wind and how to become involved in this project. Further reading on community renewable energy and wind energy can also be found here.