Wind power in Australia is clean and renewable and a typical wind turbine can meet the energy needs of up to 1000 homes. The technology is proven, fast to build and economical compared with other renewable energy technologies. There were 42 wind farms operating in Australia as at February 2007.
Australia is the highest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita in the developed world  and wind power is well placed to grow and deliver greenhouse gas emission cuts on a cost competitive basis. A typical 50 megawatt (MW) wind farm in Australia can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 65,000 and 115,000 tonnes a year.
Australia's total wind generation capacity is 0.8 GW as at end 2007. By comparison Germany has 22 GW, US 16 GW, Spain 15 GW, India 8 GW and China 6 GW. While Australia produces about 1% of its electricity from wind power, it accounts for approximately 19% of electricity production in Denmark, 9% in Spain and Portugal, and 6% in Germany and the Republic of Ireland (2007 data)
Australia has excellent wind resources by world standards. The southern coastline lies in the roaring forties and hundreds of sites have average wind speeds above 8 or even 9 m/s at 50 m above ground (hub height of a modern wind generator). Southwest Western Australia, southern South Australia, western Victoria, northern Tasmania and elevated areas of New South Wales and Queensland all have very good wind resources. Several states engaged in systematic wind speed monitoring in the 1980s and 1990s, the results of which are publicly available. Australian wind farms produce on average capacity factors of 30-35%, making wind an attractive option in the country.
At the end of 2007, Australia had installed electricity generation capacity from wind power of 824 MW and nationally wind farms contributed about 1% of total electricity production. In the state of South Australia, this figure is much higher at about 9%.
In 2007, there were 42 wind farms operating in Australia. Some of the largest wind farms in Australia are:
- Lake Bonney Wind Farm (SA) - 239.5 MW
- Snowtown wind farm (SA) - 99 MW
- Brown Hill Range Wind Farm (Hallett, SA) - 94.5 MW
- Wattle Point (SA) - 90.75 MW
- Alinta/Walkaway (WA) - 90 MW
- Emu Downs Wind Farm (WA) - 80 MW
- Mount Millar Wind Farm (SA) - 70 MW
- Cathedral Rocks (SA) - 66 MW
The 195 MW Portland Wind Project and the 192 MW Waubra Wind Farm, both in Victoria, when completed (in early 2009?), will be among the largest wind farms in Australia. Australia's first commercial wind farm, Ten Mile Lagoon Wind Farm near Esperance in Western Australia, has been operating since 1993.
For a full listing of all the wind farms in Australia, please see List of wind farms in Australia, and the relevant state articles:
- List of wind farms in New South Wales
- List of wind farms in Queensland
- List of wind farms in South Australia
- List of wind farms in Tasmania
- List of wind farms in Victoria
- List of wind farms in Western Australia
Installed and proposed capacity by state Edit
|Wind Power Capacity||Proposed Projects' Publicly Announced Status (MW)|
|Off Grid||On Grid||Total|
Wind turbine efficiency Edit
The efficiency of a wind turbine is defined as the proportion of electrical energy that is derived from the kinetic energy loss in the prevailing wind due to the presence of the turbine. In theory, a 100% efficiency would imply that all of the wind energy that is lost between the windward and leeward side, is converted to electrical energy. In practice, this not achievable due to losses such as mechanical, heat, sound and aerodynamic losses (such as turbulent patches and vorticies in the flow structure). The maximum theoretical mechanical efficiency of 59% is known as the Betz limit. 
The horizontal axis turbines of the type commonly used in Australia exhibit varying efficiencies levels at different wind speeds. The maximum efficiency can approach 50%, but the average efficiency over a range of wind speeds is usually closer to 20% in Europe and has a range of between 30 and 40% in Australia.  Turbines are usually optimised to enable maximum efficiency at a pre-determined wind speed in order to maximise the maximum energy over a long period. This needs to take into account that the available power is proportional to the cube of the wind speed - in other words, a doubling a wind speed increases the available energy eightfold.
Competitiveness of wind power Edit
Making comparisons between wind and other sources of energy can be difficult because of the cost profiles associated with wind developments. The vast majority of the costs associated with wind developments are upfront capital costs. The operating costs are relatively low, with each additional unit of wind power costing very little to produce. By comparison, conventional gas and coal developments have large capital costs, as well as significant operating costs. The difference in cost profiles creates difficulties when trying to compare the cost of alternative energy sources.
Despite these complexities, most of the data indicate that wind energy is one of the most cost efficient sources of renewable energy and that when the costs associated with pollution are factored in it is competitive with coal- and gas-fired power stations.
Environmental impact Edit
Australia is the highest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita in the developed world. It is one of the major exporters of coal, the burning of which releases CO2 into the atmosphere. It is also one of the countries most at risk from climate change according to the Stern report. This is partially because of the size of its agriculture sector and long coastline.
A wind farm, when installed on agricultural land, has one of the lowest environmental impacts of all energy sources:
- It occupies less land area per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity generated than any other energy conversion system, apart from rooftop solar energy, and is compatible with grazing and crops.
- It generates the energy used in its construction in just 3 months of operation, yet its operational lifetime is 20-25 years.
- Greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution produced by its construction are small and declining. There is very little emission or pollution produced by its operation.
- In substituting for base-load (mostly coal power) in mainland Australia, wind power produces a net decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and a net increase in biodiversity.
- Modern wind turbines are almost silent and rotate so slowly (in terms of revolutions per minute) that they are rarely a hazard to birds.
Landscape and heritage issues may be a significant issue for certain wind farms,however these are minimal when compared with the Environmental effects of coal. However, when appropriate planning procedures are followed, the heritage and landscape risks should be minimal. Some people may still object to wind farms, perhaps on the grounds of aesthetics, but their concerns should be weighed against the need to address the threats posed by climate change and the opinions of the broader community.
Overseas experience has shown that community consultation and direct involvement of the general public in wind farm projects has helped to increase community approval. Some wind farms become tourist attractions.
Politics of wind power Edit
From 2001 to early 2006, the main driving force for the establishment of wind farms in Australia was the Government's Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET). However, by mid-2006, sufficient renewable energy had been installed or was under construction to meet the small MRET target for 2010. Also, in 2006, several Federal Government Ministers spoke out against a number of wind farm proposals.
Dr Mark Diesendorf has suggested that the Australian Government has tried to stop the development of wind power, the lowest-cost, new, renewable electricity source, until such time as coal-fired power stations with CO2 capture and sequestration and possibly nuclear power stations are available. However, "clean coal" technologies may not be commercially available for at least 20 years. Furthermore, to bring down the high cost of nuclear power to a level where it could compete with wind power would require a new generation of nuclear power stations that is still on the drawing board, which could take at least 15 years.
In November 2007 the Rudd (Labor) government was elected in Australia, replacing the Howard (Liberal/National Coalition) government. The new government ratified Australia's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, promised a target of 20% renewable power by 2020 and to do more to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, several new wind power projects have been proposed in anticipation of an expanded MRET.
Major wind power companies Edit
Pacific Hydro Edit
Pacific Hydro is an Australian company that specialises in electricity generation using renewable energy. Its focus is on hydroelectricity and windpower. Wind power stations owned by Pacific Hydro include:
Roaring 40s Edit
Roaring 40s is based in Tasmania and has two wind farms operating in Australia: Woolnorth Wind Farm in Tasmania and Cathedral Rocks Wind Farm in South Australia. It has announced its intention to build the 117MW Waterloo Wind Farm in the Mid North of South Australia starting in 2008.
Suzlon Energy Australia Pty. Ltd. (SEA), is based in Melbourne, and is a subsidiary of Suzlon Energy A/S of Aarhus, Denmark. Suzlon will install 45 units of its S88 – 2.1 megawatt wind turbines for AGL at the Hallett Wind Farm to be located on the Brown Hill Range, which is situated approximately 220 kilometers north of Adelaide.
Wind Prospect Edit
In March 2005 the 46MW Canunda Wind Farm in South Australia, developed by Wind Prospect, was commissioned. A second South Australian wind farm, Mt Millar Wind Farm, was commissioned in January 2006 and this provides a further 70MW of generation. More recently, a third wind farm has reached financial close for Wind Prospect in South Australia. This is the 95MW Hallett Wind Farm which is expected to be fully commissioned late in 2008.
See also Edit
- Energy policy of Australia
- List of large wind farms
- Mark Diesendorf
- Renewable energy commercialization in Australia
- Solar power in Australia
- Wind power
- Wind power in South Australia
- Wind power in the United Kingdom
- Wind Power and Wind Farms in Australia: Wind in the Bush
- List of useful links about renewable energy in Australia
- Renewable Energy Atlas of Australia
- "Why Australia needs wind power" by Mark Diesendorf
- Australian Wind Energy Association
- SA Electricity Industry Supply Planning Council 2005 Wind Study
- Sustainability Victoria Wind Energy: The Myths and the Facts
- Why does Green Power cost extra?
- The base-load fallacy
- Integrating wind energy in the Australian National Electricity Market
- Wind energy round the clock
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