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More power to communities embracing wind farms

An Edited version of this Op Ed was published in The Weekly Times

A hundred metres above the flat, dry grain country of the Wimmera Plains in Western Victoria the wind blows strongly. Last week the farming region took a big step toward capturing the power of this wind when a 116 turbine wind farm at Murra Warra received its planning approval.

The project is huge, in stature and economic impact. It will power 250,000 homes, employ more than 600 people during the construction phase and create 60 ongoing jobs once the wind farm is switched on.

The benefits will be spread across Horsham, Warracknabeal, Dimboola and Minyip.

So it’s perhaps unsurprising that not a single objection was made against the project as the state government considered its approval. As polling shows us time and again, Australians are big fans of wind farms and want them in their own backyard.

The community of Murra Warra have been proactive in grasping the opportunities on offer. Eighteen local farming families got together to negotiate with the developer on how the wind farm will work for them. They’ll now receive a steady income from hosting the turbines. At the same time the developer will pay nearly $3 million into a community fund over the next 25 years. The local will be the ones who decide how this money is invested with an eye to strengthening local services and keeping families on the land.

Benefits like these make it hard to believe that federal politicians are blocking the development of more wind farms. Last week, the Chief Scientist Alan Finkel reported investment in clean energy is at a standstill because federal politicians can’t decide on a clear policy.

If the Federal Government was listening to voters it would being doing everything in its power to turn this around. It’s thanks to the states and territories stepping in to create their own clean energy targets that job-creating projects like Murra Warra are happening. The economic benefits to the Wimmera would remain a pipe dream without Victoria’s push to modernise its electricity system.

Ignoring the transition to renewable energy will cost Australians. The cost of wind energy is plummeting. In 2013, the 420 megawatt Macarthur Wind Farm near Hamilton cost $1 billion to build. Just three years later, Murra Warra, which is slightly larger than Macarthur, will only cost $662 million. This lowers the cost of renewable energy on your bill.

As old and outdated coal-burning power stations like Hazelwood reach their use by date, wind energy is powering more of our homes, pollution free and giving a much-needed boost to regional economies along the way. 

Andrew Bray, National Co-ordinator of the Australian Wind Alliance

Image: What the proposed Murra Warra Wind Farm will look like.

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