Joachim Muller, Central Coast Greens
An Australian community-owned wind farm is Australia’s new international champion after winning the prestigious World Wind Energy Reward 2012.
Hepburn Wind is the community co-operative responsible for the first community-initiated and owned wind farm in Australia. As well as generating electrical energy, the 4.1 MW wind farm in Leonards Hill, near Daylesford (about 100 km north-west of Melbourne) it has also helped to educate the community about wind power.
The World Wind Energy Association (WWEA) awarded Hepburn the "Community Power – Citizens’ Power" accolade at the 11th World Wind Energy Conference 2012 for its ground-breaking initiative establishing this community-owned wind farm.
The WWEA said: “The Hepburn Community Wind Farm stands for a social movement outside the strong fossil fuels lobby in Australia, aiming at a fundamental energy transformation that is driven by Australia’s citizens. As the first initiative for a community wind farm on the Australian continent… the wind farm has become an example and important reference project in Australia and has inspired many similar initiatives around Australia and beyond.”
(Left: Joachim Muller and Kate Da Costa from the Central Coast Greens hold up a map of wind installations in Australia.)
There are many community groups around the world that already jointly own renewable energy production facilities. In Germany there are already close to 600 initiatives with many set up as democratic co-ops with each member owning one or more shares and entitled to a single vote. Another advantage of the co-op model is how it educates and empowers members and also gives back to the community.
In just eight years, the members of Hepburn Wind have driven their project to the point where it is now feeding electricity into the grid. More and more community groups are setting up across Australia and all expect to get a financial return as the cost of renewable energy nears parity with fossil energy. While some groups focus on wind, others are setting up solar power plants. In July this year Central Coast Community Energy was founded just north of Sydney and is focusing is on both solar and wind with decision making made according to the financial viability of an individual project.
“Co-ops can work with councils and industry to get better prices for electricity generated by the cooperative and to supply direct to large consumers.”
Solar projects can develop much faster than wind projects because they can be completed in stages and grown to meet demand and the changing financial situation of the co-op. Many are completed in less than two years. Solar panels do not require any extra land as they can be easily installed on the roofs of private homes and public buildings. Solar electricity has reached grid parity in Australia, however it is still much more expensive than wind power..
For information on forming a renewable energy co-op, visit www.embark.com.au. Embark is a support organisation which has used the experiences of Hepburn Wind to compile a very detailed set of instructions on how to join the renewables revolution.
Joachim Muller was involved in setting up Central Coast Community Energy (CCCE). For more information email email@example.com