WIND FARM FAQs
What are the benefits to the wider community?
Large scale renewable projects create long term employment (30 yrs+) which is rare in many rural communities. Employment is bolstered not only in the construction and maintenance of renewable projects but all the way through the local business supply chain – including pubs, hotels, B&B’s, café’s, caterers, cleaners, uniform suppliers, fuel suppliers, hardware suppliers, vehicle and machinery servicing and many other businesses. In 2012, 24,000 Australians were employed in the renewable energy sector and the industry is set to generate an additional new 18,400 jobs by 2020 (CEC 2015).
RES implements community funds on all of their renewable energy projects. Local charities, communities groups and other eligible parties can then apply for grants from the funds to support their projects. Funds are allocated to the local community independently through the setup of a locally elected fund committee.
Keeping the price of electricity down
According to Deloitte, Australian households will pay $510 million more for power in 2020 without renewable growth through the RET and up to $1.4 billion more per year beyond 2020. Renewables increase competition in the wholesale energy market – and as in any market, less competition means higher prices. To understand how this works, Powershop have created an excellent YouTube video which can be viewed here.
A better environment
Renewable Energy projects do not emit carbon dioxide (CO2), airborne particulates or other greenhouse gas emissions during their operation. As such they generate clean, green electricity over a long period which contributes to making Australia a cleaner and healthier society. At the end of their operational life, renewable infrastructure like wind turbines can be removed quickly and easily without a lifetime of residual pollution to deal with. There are no fossil fuel based generators that can do this.
Is wind energy efficient?
There are some websites which seek to discredit renewable energy as a viable, cost effective, efficient energy source. The cost and generation numbers of renewable energy generators speak for themselves. Renewable energy now accounts for around one third of Europe’s total energy demand, and 22% of global demand. The International Energy Agency is predicting that renewable energy will triple its current generation levels over the next 25 years. In terms of investment in the global power sector, more is being invested in renewable energy than in oil, gas and coal combined (Source: IEA 2015). The world’s major institutional investors and sovereign wealth funds are divesting from fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy, because they understand that renewable energy provides a stable long term means of power generation at a very low cost, with no residual pollution risks and hence risks to their investors/shareholders. As a result of this investment, renewable energy will continue to grow in Australia. In comparison, pure coal companies business interests have shrunk by 60% in Australia since 2012.
Do renewable energy generators get big subsidies?
In Australia renewable energy generators receive income from selling the power they generate, plus they receive an ‘LGC’ (Large scale Generations Certificate), which can be traded for cash value. According to ACIL Allen, LGC’s presently cost the Australia public around $50 on average per year on their energy bills, however this cost is offset by reducing the wholesale cost of power during market price spikes.
By comparison, according to the International Monetary Fund, Australian’s subsidise fossil fuel interests by $41billion or the equivalent of $1,772 per person per year or around 2% of Australia’s GDP.
GETTING THE FACTS RIGHT: things to know about wind energy
The Australian Clean Energy Council has published a community guide to wind farms. This guide includes many frequently asked questions about wind energy generally and it can be found on their website here.
Wind farm noise
Wind turbines in Australia face some of the toughest planning and operation guidelines in the world in relation to their permissible noise levels, with strict measures for non-compliance. Modern wind turbine design drastically reduces the aerodynamic and mechanical noise associated with their operation relative to earlier wind farms installed 10+ years ago. Even in generally quiet rural areas, the sound of the blowing wind is often louder than the turbines.
In addition to the noise modelling work during the planning phase, noise compliance assessments are also required after the commissioning of the turbines. In this way, members of the public can be assured that the actual built development will be checked for its compliance with noise limits set by the appropriate authority and that all local land topography (including valleys etc. is taken into account).
To avoid potential disturbance to neighbours, strict rules are applied by relevant authorities to ensure that wind turbines are far enough from nearby houses and to ensure they do not cause a noise nuisance to local residents. The Dulacca project design ensures a minimum distance buffer of 1,500m to any existing residential properties.
Wind energy has a low impact on existing agriculture
Wind farms typically use less than 1% of the land area. Once up and running, agriculture can continue around the wind farm infrastructure. Farm animals such as cows, horsed and sheep are not disturbed. Any impacts on the local environment must be balanced against the much more serious effects of producing conventional fossil fuel based electricity.
Wind energy has limited impact on habitats and wildlife
Wind farm developers are required to undertake an environmental assessments for each project. Extensive efforts are made to avoid putting up wind farms in areas which might attract large numbers of birds or bats, such as migration routes.
In the UK, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has said that "we have not so far witnessed any major adverse effects on birds associated with wind farms." Wind energy developers, following industry best practice guidelines, work closely with such organisations to ensure that wind farm design and layout does not interfere with sensitive species or wildlife designated sites.
Wind energy reduces pollution
Unlike other forms of power generation, wind energy is clean and renewable. During operation, wind farms do not produce any carbon dioxide, the largest contributor to global warming. By contrast, conventional power stations burning fossil fuels, mainly coal and gas, are responsible for a quarter of the increase in greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere. It's "renewable" because its fuel source is the wind - freely available and constantly renewed.
Wind energy generates reliable electricity
Wind turbines generate electricity most of the time (around 80% of the time). Their output varies according to the strength of the wind. They start generating power when the wind is blowing at about 3-5 metres per second and then stop again if it reaches gale force strength - about 25 metres/second. Over the course of a year, a wind turbine on land will generate from around 35% to more than 45% of its theoretical maximum output, depending on location. By comparison, conventional power stations typically operate at about 50% of their theoretical maximum (but only when it is economical for that plant to generate power).
Wind turbines produce much more energy than they use
It is a myth that building a wind farm takes more energy than it ever generates. The comparison of energy used in manufacture with the energy produced by a power station is known as the 'energy balance'. It can be expressed in terms of energy 'pay-back' time, i.e. as the time needed to generate the equivalent amount of energy used in manufacturing the wind turbine or power station.
The average wind farm in the will pay back the energy used in its manufacture within six to eight months and will operate for 30 years.
Wind energy is a vital part of the mix
Wind energy has an essential role in combating climate change and Australia needs a mix of both new and existing renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures, and as quickly as possible. Wind energy is the most cost effective renewable energy source available to generate clean electricity, help combat climate change and meet our energy security objectives right now. It is a proven, efficient technology that can be deployed quickly and has been contributing to the global electricity supply for years. Furthermore, developing a strong wind industry will facilitate other renewable technologies which have not reached commercialisation yet, accumulating valuable experience in dealing with issues such as grid connection, supply chain and finance.