Nestled in the foothills of the Macedon Ranges in Central Victoria is the town of Daylesford. Famous for it’s mineral water, cellar doors and artsy galleries, the town is also famous as the home of Australia’s pioneering community energy project, Hepburn Wind.
Hepburn Wind is Australia’s first community-owned wind farm. It’s two turbines were named ‘Gale’ and ‘Gusto’ after a competition for community to send in their favorite names. This makes them probably the only named turbines in Australia! Together Gale and Gusto have a combined capacity of 4.1 MW that produce enough clean energy to power 2,300 homes.
Hepburn Wind's journey originated in 2005 when a small group of Daylesford residents were stunned by opposition to another proposed wind farm in the area. Instead of just accepting the community's negativity, the locals joined together to form a Steering Committee and began looking for wind developers who might be interested in the community co-operative model.
Perhaps understandably, not many developers were interested in building a small wind farm with a community group with no industry experience and no money, but the group persevered and finally found a partner who agreed to work with them to develop a community-owned wind farm. The Steering Committee’s role was to build local, individual and organisational support, while the commercial partner agreed to take on much of the early financial risk in exchange for a development fee.
The group set about educating Daylesford locals about the benefits of wind through street stalls, public information sessions and bus tours to other wind projects in the region. The concept of a community-owned project gained traction and with an extraordinary fundraising effort (in the middle of the Global Financial Crises no less), the group managed to raise the $13 million dollars needed to get the project off the ground. An incredible effort for a small community.
By May 2011, the town celebrated as the turbines erected on Leonards Hill, overlooking Daylesford, were connected to the grid. To this day, a community co-operative manages the wind farm, provides financial returns to its members and funds community projects through a community fund. In four annual grant rounds, the cooperative has funded 45 local projects with grants totalling over $89,000, including environmental, educational, artistic and sporting projects.
The Hepburn model shows other communities a way of funding and developing wind energy resources through direct investment from small investors and local communities who want to support local renewable energy.
In spite of many challenges, overwhelming support from the community made it happen – inspiring similar projects to explore the community enterprise model for renewable energy projects.
To learn more about the secrets behind the Hepburn Wind experience and what lesson it holds for other community projects, register for the 2017 Community Energy Congress here: http://c4ce.net.au/congress/registration/
The Congress will also include an optional tour to visit the Hepburn Wind site on Sunday 26 February with international speaker Søren Hermansen and other special guests. See the Congress website for details.
For more information on the story of Hepburn Wind, go to https://www.hepburnwind.com.au/about/