Five new wind farm projects were commissioned in 2011 in Australia

Australia’s exceptional wind resources have allowed wind energy to make an increasing contribution to Australia’s energy mix. Although it is still a relatively new industry, wind farm supplies over 6,400 GWh annually, which represents more than 2% of national electricity consumption.

At the end of 2011, Australia had 1,211 operating wind turbines across 58 wind power plants with a total installed wind energy capacity of 2,224 MW. The total installed capacity of wind power has grown by an average of 35% per year over the past five years.

Although the cost of wind energy continues to fall, government support such as the Renewable Energy Target (RET) Scheme is crucial to support investment in the industry and enables the wind power sector to play a major role in helping Australia’s transition to a low carbon economy. The introduction of a price on carbon, which is anticipated for mid-2012, will provide the focal point of the government’s strategy to reduce emissions.

Five new wind farm projects were commissioned in 2011, adding 234 MW of capacity to the Australian electricity grid: Hallett 4 (132.3 MW), Woodlawn (48 MW), Gunning (46.5 MW), Hepburn (4.1 MW) and Mt Barker (2.4 MW). A further seven wind energy projects, totaling 1,060 MW, are currently under construction and expected to be completed within the next three years in the states of Victoria, W Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales and South Australia.

An additional 13 GW of wind turbines projects are proposed for development in Australia, and have either received planning and environmental approvals or are currently applying for them, and another 5 GW of projects are undergoing feasibility studies.

The size of Australian wind farms is increasing. Acciona’s 192 MW Waubra wind farm in Victoria is currently the largest in the country with 128 wind turbines spread over 173 square kilometres. However, AGL / Meridian Energy’s 420 MW Macarthur Wind Farm in Victoria will be significantly larger if constructed in its proposed form.

Nationally, wind power is spread over most states. South Australia has the highest capacity (1,151 MW), accounting for 52% of the total national wind capacity, and produces more than 20% of its electricity from wind power. Victoria follows with 432 MW, New South
Wales (282 MW), Western Australia (204 MW), Tasmania (143 MW) and Queensland with 12 MW.

A number of new wind turbine manufacturers have entered the Australian market recently, but the market remains dominated by two main suppliers, namely Vestas/NEG Micon and REpower, which merged with Suzlon’s Australian operation in 2011.

The Australian Government’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) Scheme is designed to deliver 20% of Australia’s electricity supply from renewable sources by 2020. The Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET) and the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) provide incentives designed to bridge the gap between the price of black electricity and renewable energy, and are expected to yieldmore than 45,000 GWh in 2020.

The RET is crucial in supporting investment in the renewable energy industry and it provides the main incentive for wind power development in Australia, unlocking an expected investment of more than AUD 20 billion (EUR 16.09 billion / USD 21.14 billion) over this decade. 

The Australian government has introduced new legislation on carbon pricing, setting the foundation for a national strategy to cut carbon pollution. A fixed carbon price of AUD 23 (EUR 18.5 / USD 24.3) per metric tonne will apply from 1 July 2012 rising by 2.5% every year for three years before moving to an emissions trading scheme from July 2015 onwards.

Around 500 companies – those that emit more than 25,000 tonnes of CO²-e/year – will be covered under the carbon pricing mechanism. Companies will need to buy and surrender to the government a permit for every tonne of pollution they produce. This will provide support to the wind energy industry by making the cost of wind energy more competitive with the cost of electricity generated from fossil fuels which will attract the carbon tax.

The Clean Energy legislation also sets up a Clean Energy Regulator which from 2 April 2012 will become the statutory authority responsible for administering the carbon pricing mechanism, the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme and the Renewable Energy Target.

As part of the carbon price package, AUD 10 billion (EUR 8.04 / USD 10.56) of the revenue collected will go towards the commercially oriented Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). The CEFC operates independently of the Government to provide loans for promising clean energy initiatives, helping to unlock sources of private capital. Its purpose is to enhance the commercialisation and deployment of renewable energy, enabling technologies, energy efficiency and low emission technologies.

Additionally, a new independent statutory body, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will coordinate AUD 3.2 billion (EUR 2.57 / USD 3.38) in existing funding programmes to promote research and development, demonstration and commercialisation of renewable energy projects.

Federal and state planning laws are very important to the successful deployment of wind power across the nation. A change of government in some states has resulted in proposed or implemented amendments to planning laws which have introduced significant uncertainty into the wind industry.

Wind energy today is the fastest growing large scale renewable energy source for electricity generation in Australia. A report prepared by Garrad Hassan for the Clean Energy Council predicts that an additional 6.9 GW of wind power would be constructed under the enhanced RET by 2020. With the right policy mix and increased demand for low emission energy, wind energy can remain a major contributor to the challenge of decarbonising Australia’s energy mix.

A transmission system that can accommodate high rates of wind penetration in some areas is required. Upgrades and extensions to parts of the electricity grid would support the expansion of the wind power sector. In the past year, the Australian wind industry has been working extensively to ensure that communities are engaged and informed about the economic benefits that wind turbines projects can bring to the community.

1 Australian Government, Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency: Renewable Energy Target Scheme. http://

2 Australian Government, Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator: The Large-scale Renewable Energy Target.

3 Australian Government, Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator: The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.

4 Australian Government: Clean Energy Future Package/Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

5 Australian Government, Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism: Australian Renewable Energy Agency.