Renewables Pay Off for the Regions

Late last month, Victoria’s Planning Minister gave the approval for an 800MW wind farm at Golden Plains, 130 kilometres west of Melbourne. With 230 x 230-metre high turbines, Golden Plains is likely to be the biggest wind farm in the southern hemisphere when completed.

The project will be double the size of the Coopers Gap wind farm in Queensland, currently the largest in Australia. Its turbines will be approximately as high as Melbourne’s Central Towers.

The farm’s massive size, enough to power three-quarters of a million homes for a year, provoked opposition. Golden Plains faced years of legal challenges pursued (in name at least) by local farmers. 

All that persistence certainly paid off. The company, WestWind, has conceded to giving local residents $1,000 per annum per turbine within 2km of their home.

According to RenewEconomy, WestWind had the project planned and “sitting on the books” for years. In other words, they were waiting for a political climate beholden to fossil fuels to shift.

The project was formally proposed in 2017, during the Turnbull federal government and after Dan Andrews became premier of Victoria. Dan Andrews’s government has a target to halve emissions by 2030 as against 2005 levels.

Local Benefits for Regional Renewables

Despite voices of opposition, Golden Plains Mayor Owen Sharkey is glowing in his support of the project. “In our rural communities, these impressive renewable energy developments are transformative for our local economy,” said Sharkey. 

Construction of Mt Mercer wind farm, in Golden Plains, in 2013.

“WestWind Energy reports that the Golden Plains Wind Farm will create more than 700 jobs during construction and a further 70 ongoing jobs when the wind farm is operational. 

“The wind farm’s Rokewood neighbours will also benefit from free electricity, financial payments and a community fund; with townships across Golden Plains Shire set to receive funding for local projects and infrastructure through community contributions.”

Golden Plains already has two active wind farm projects. The Berrybank project, with 79 turbines, commenced commercial operation on 1 July this year.

Meridian Energy’s Mt Mercer project has 41 active turbines. It commenced power to the grid in November 2013.

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