With three wind farm projects on New England’s regional development horizon for over a decade now - White Rock, Sapphire and Glen Innes - the region’s community and business leaders are more than ready to see some action.
NSW Organiser, Charlie Prell, and I travelled to Glen Innes for a workshop to discuss a proposal from electricity transmission company, Transgrid, for a renewable energy hub in the region. If the project proceeds, it will greatly increase the chances that all three wind projects will be built and this will mean big things for local employment opportunities.
What leapt out from the discussions for us was the overwhelming support from community leaders for wind energy in the region. The day saw mayors, councillors past and present, academics and representatives from the local business, government and community sectors come together from towns across the region including Glen Innes, Inverell and Armidale.
“I’m very passionate about my community,” said Colin Price, Mayor of Glen Innes Severn Shire Council “I’m probably more passionate about rugby than wind farms but wind farms are going to be good for my community so I’ll support them passionately too!”
With the first of those projects, the White Rock Wind Farm, nearing the construction phase the town is now grappling seriously with the economic opportunities these projects represent and how it will gear up to make the most of them.
With elevations of up to 1400m above sea level in some areas, the New England region is home to some of the best wind resources in the state. The move to cleaner energy and the increasingly distributed nature of electricity this brings puts this region firmly in line to take full advantage.
Former Glen Innes Severn Major Steve Toms said “we’ve got a great wind and solar resource here and industry in now starting to realise that. There were some questions about why Eastlink (the high voltage connection between New South Wales and Queensland) was happening but now people are starting to realise. The challenge for government is how to facilitate it.”
The project is being conducted with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the workshop was a step along the way to assessing the feasibility of the renewable energy hub. We’re looking forward to hearing more as the project unfolds.
Of course, these projects are all in the electorate of the new Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, so we're pretty keen to hear from him on this too.
Image: Andrew Bray, Charlie Prell and representatives from Transgrid, government and the local community.
We also met with a group of local farmers to learn more about the community situation around the wind projects. Here's our story in the Glen Innes Examiner.