It shows that total renewable energy generation share in Australia has gone from under 7% to nearly 18% in the ten years to the end of June 2018.
The share made up of hydro power had changed little in the period, wind power provided the greatest growth, while roof-top solar was not a long way behind.
It is interesting that while 'Grid solar and biomass' were not big at the end of the period, large-scale solar PV was growing at a remarkably high rate. Expect to see it making up a much larger part of Australia's total renewables in the near future.
Wind power is also undergoing a growth spurt at the time this graph was produced, there were then 18 wind farms with a total of 3.2 GW of installed capacity under construction in Australia. When in operation these wind farms could be expected to increase the amount of wind power generation by 68%.
Perhaps the most positive thing about all this is that the more recent growth has happened during the
Turnbull governments, both of which did their best to slow renewable energy growth and support the coal industry in Australia.
It seems that renewable energy is now unstoppable!
The situation in 2018The fact that South Australia went from nothing in early 2003 to around 39% wind-generated electricity and 9% solar by 2018 while Australia as a whole had only about 6% wind power shows that Australia could be doing a lot more than it is.
According to the Clean Energy Council's 2018 Clean Energy Report wind generated electricity in Australia made up 5.72% of Australia's total generation while the corresponding figure for hydro power was 5.74%. With about 3 GW of wind farms under construction to be added to the 4.7 GW already operating at the end of 2017 wind power will increase greatly in future while hydro will not. So wind power is set to be far and away the biggest generator of sustainable energy in Australia, at least until and unless solar PV catches up. The Clean Energy Council's report put hydro at 33.9%, wind at 33.8% and solar at 22.6% of total renewable electricity generation at the end of 2017.
More about these pagesFor information on specific Australian wind farms refer either to wind farm pages on individual states (box above left) or the Wind farm index.
I have aimed at facts; facts that have been selected to inform open-minded people about wind farms, but also facts that counter some of the lies perpetrated by wind farm opponents. Some of the facts on these pages are not particularly palatable to wind farm proponents, many will be highly unpalatable to wind farm opponents.
The only morally and environmentally acceptable alternatives to fossil fuel energy are to:
UpdatesUpdates to these pages are added continuously and are extracted from the various news media, scholarly journals, and by actively seeking information from wind farm proposers/owners, governments, non-government organisations and interested individuals. I'd be pleased to receive comment from anyone who believes that any items here are wrong, incomplete, or out of date (my email address is near the top of each page).
Wind power potentialAustralia has huge potential for wind farm development, but if that potential is to be developed governments must take a more pro-active part. Apart from the artificially low price of fossil-fuel-generated power, and the lack of support from Coalition governments, the greatest obstacle to the development of wind power – and sustainable power in general – is the lack of high capacity electricity transmission lines where they are needed; and no governments, of either major party, are showing any willingness to build them. This might be compared with Texas, where the state government is building transmission lines into areas with top-quality wind resources in anticipation of wind farm development.
Where are we compared with the rest of the world?The World Wind Energy Association (WWEA) report 2013 stated that the total wind power was 319 gigawatts (GW. Of that, 91 GW was in China, 61 GW in USA, 35 GW in Germany, 23 GW in Spain, 20 GW in India and 11 GW in the UK. Wind power provided 4% of worldwide electricity demand. (Also see How does Australia compare?.)
The Clean Energy Council reported that:
"In 2013, Australia's wind farms produced over a quarter of the country's clean energy... Wind power supplied 4 per cent of Australia's overall electricity during the year.In 2014 the 270MW Snowtown 2 Wind Farm came on line in South Australia, making Snowtown WF up to a total of 370MW, the second biggest in the country.
In Australia's wind power potential I have calculated that if the best wind resources of Australia were developed at least 90 GW of wind power is possible. (This excludes areas of denser population, areas of tourism value, conservation and other parks.)
The Howard Federal Government had a Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) which aimed at Australia having something under 2% of its electricity generated by renewable means. Scientists have warned that we must reduce world greenhouse gas production rates by 60%. The Rudd government legislated for twenty percent renewable energy by 2020 in or about 2008. This target was later reduced by the Abbott Coalition government.
Speculation: threat to fossil fuel industryAround 2005, when wind generated a negligible proportion of Australia's electricity, the fossil fuel industry didn't see the wind industry as a threat. In 2012, with wind generating about a quarter of South Australia's electricity and a steadily increasing percentage of electricity australia-wide, the fossil fuel industry has realised that it has been caught with its pants down and that the wind energy industry is a serious competitor. It is reacting by trying, by any means available to it, to discredit wind power and sustainable energy in general. In this, through the pressure it is placing on politicians in the major parties, and the Liberal Party in particular, it seems to be having quite a bit of success.
Coincidentally, just after I wrote the paragraph above, I read a piece in The Guardian titled "Conservative thinktanks step up attacks against Obama's clean energy strategy" which discusses devious ways in which the fossil fuel industry is trying to undermine the wind energy industry in the USA.
While Labor is not so pro fossil fuel as Liberal, it is still content to leave the mining industry (a big part of which is coal) with some $4b of subsidies annually. For example, mining is exempt from the diesel excise, while the wind and solar industries are not.
Speculation: The fossil fuel industry funds climate change denial – why not also a dis-information campaign against wind power?In 2006 the Royal Society, probably the most prestigeous, certainly the most venerable, scientific society in the world, wrote to ExxonMobil asking them to stop funding a dis-information campaign on climate change. If the fossil fuel industry funds climate change denial, why would they be above funding a campaign against wind power?
Speculation: anti-wind power movementIn my experience wind farm proponents often avoid mentioning things that are to the disadvantage of wind power, but rarely lie; wind farm opponents commonly lie and are often woefully ill-informed. Two examples:
The most important point in favour of wind power is that the electricity generated replaces power that would (especially in Australia) otherwise be generated by burning fossil fuels. So the bigger the proportion of wind power in our electricity supply the greater the reduction in the production of the atmospheric greenhouse gasses that cause climate change and ocean acidification.
A community where a wind farm is built is advantaged by:
SKM report, Wind Farm Investment, Employment and Carbon Abatement in Australia
What the above figures tell us is that for every Megawatt-hour of electricity that is generated by an Australian wind farm, on average, there is nearly a tonne less greenhouse carbon dioxide released than there would be if the wind farms were not there. Coal-fired power stations (typical of Victoria) release about a tonne of CO2 for every MWh they generate, other states have a lower proportion of coal-fired power; Tasmania, in particular, has a high percentage of clean hydro power.
FCAS is a technical subject of which I have little understanding, but AEMO reported that:
"The use of the Hornsdale Wind Farm (and the Hornsdale Power Reserve, better known as the world’s largest battery) in FCAS managed to successfully lower prices during an event on 14 January 2018, reducing them down to $248/MWh from the historically observed $9,000/MWh.For information on the trial please look up either or both of the following links.
ARENA: 'Results in from Hornsdale Windfarm FCAS trial'.
AEMO Energy Live: 'Wind Farm trial shows promising results for system security'.
More could be done to encourage tourism by the wind farm operators and if more visits by the general public were encouraged it would help to increase awareness of the facts about wind power and dispell some of the myths about noise and health issues, etc.
The photo on the right is of a viewing pod on a wind turbine tower overlooking Vancouver, Canada. More can be read about this at Inside Vancouver. A similar viewing pod on one of the turbines at the proposed Ceres Project on Yorke Peninsula could provide oustanding views of the generally fairly flat Peninsula as well as across the Gulf Saint Vincent to Adelaide.
Wind turbines can also become art objects.
Wind farms that do have something for tourists beyond just views of the turbines from nearby roadsBelow are some that I know of (I'd be happy to list more if anyone can tell me of them).
Right back into pre-history wind has been used to move boats. Wikipedia says that the first practical windmills were in use in Sistan, a region of Iran and bordering Afghanistan, at least by the 9th century. In 2019 it seems that there were a few of a similar design still operating in Nashtifan, in the same area (see Nashtifan Windmills, atlasobscura, there are also videos on the Internet).
Wind power began being harnessed in Europe in the twelfth century. It was used to grind grain, power early industrial machines such as heavy hammers, and to pump water. With the coming of steam power in the nineteenth century, around the time Australia was settled by Europeans, wind and water power went into decline; steam power was available on demand.
The graph on the right shows some of the larger turbines built in Australia
in particular years up to 2008.
The Australian record in the evolution of turbine sizes very much follows that
For several practical reasons it seems that wind turbines (or at least
on-shore wind turbines) cannot get
The growth in turbine sizes shown on the graph on the right was exponential but while turbine size increased after 2008, it did not do so at an exponential rate.
The turbines listed in the table on the right (the same as those graphed above) were among the largest constructed in Australia in the given years.
Photos of some of these turbines are below; larger photos are generally available via the links.
|Evolution of Australian wind turbines in pictures|
Photo credit: Greg Farkas
225 kW, 1993
Turbine blade materialsSo far as I know, up to 2011 most turbine blades were made of fibre-glass reinforced epoxy, possibly with some balsa wood being incorporated; but in late 2011 Nordex, at least, announced its first carbon-fibre turbine blades.
I have started this chronology with Salmon Beach Wind Farm because that was, I believe, the first significant attempt to provide a substantial contribution to powering a community with wind power; Salmon Beach is not included in the cumulative figures because it has been dismantled.
Starfish Hill Wind Farm was built in 2003 with 23 turbines each of 1.5MW; In 2010 one turbine was destroyed by fire and was dismantled. In 2014 a turbine at Cathedral Rocks Wind Farm was taken out of service due to a failure of the main shaft. Both of these factors have been taken into account in the table below.
Developing a wind farm is a careful and lengthy process.
Most wind farms take considerable time – around five years or even
longer – to proceed from concept through to approval, construction
The following table indicates the steps which are followed, and a typical
wind farm timeline.
Desktop research identifies windy areas with potentially suitable access, environment and topography, and possible connection to the electricity grid.
|Decision point... seek landholder participation for studies|
|Landholder contact, data collection and constraint mapping|
Short-term agreements are sought with landholders to allow exclusive access to properties for wind measurement (including wind monitoring towers), initial environmental and constraint studies and other work, including exploring options to connect to the electricity grid. Landholder agreements may include long-term arrangements to be activated should the project reach step 7 (construction).
|Decision point... refine area and proceed to more detailed studies|
|Refine project area, conduct detailed studies and develop layout|
The project area is refined and more detailed environmental, landscape, noise and other assessment studies are conducted. These inform the development of draft management and construction plans and, with landholder and community input, help pinpoint potential locations for turbines, access tracks, any required substations, connection lines, and other project layout details.
|Decision point... proceed to development application|
|Development Application process|
Detailed development application documents are produced for consideration by the community and the appropriate planning authorities (local, state, federal) in the statutory development assessment process. The development assessment process provides everyone with the opportunity to make formal submissions regarding the final proposal, prior to it being assessed. This assessment process may see the proposal approved without conditions, approved with conditions, or refused.
|Decision point... outcome of development application process considered|
|Tenders and final agreement for grid connection|
If development approval is given and any conditions accepted, agreement is reached with the electricity network for future grid connection and tenders are sought for equipment and the construction process.
|Financial Investment Decision|
Following approvals and tenders, the Origin Board of Directors then considers whether to commit expenditure for the construction and operation of the wind farm (this decision will normally involve hundreds of millions of dollars). The decision may be to proceed or to wait, pending various business or economic issues.
|Decision point... financial decision to construct or not|
If the financial decision is to proceed, orders are placed for turbines and other equipment, and a construction company engaged to build the wind farm. Long-term lease agreements with landholders are activated during this stage and a Community Fund established.
The wind farm begins generating electricity for the national grid.
Up to about 2018 wind was the leading economically competitive form of sustainable energy, but by about that time solar photovoltaic costs had fallen to the point where they were roughly on a par with wind. And solar thermal was showing promise, especially as it comes with much needed energy storage. (Australia's wind power potential is dealt with on another page on this site.)
Using biological waste and methane from land-fill to generate electricity is feasible and is being done, but its capacity is limited. 'Hot dry rock' geothermal seems to have too many technical difficulties to be a serious contender in the foreseeable future. Wave-power, harnessing algae to produce fuels, and other alternatives seem further away. A decade or two could change that picture.
If the logic in the few sentences above is correct, then wind power must be
developed to the maximum reasonable degree and as quickly as possible.
In Australia's wind power potential I argue that the potential installed wind power in Australia is more than 91 GW, and the amount of generation then would be more than 241 TWh p.a. (Total electrical generation in Australia in 2010 was around 300 TWh.)
Some of us will get sick of the site of wind turbines; some already are. (I love the things; they are elegant, graceful, and do no harm to most views. Of course there are some places where I would not want to see them built.) The alternatives to building wind turbines are to either throw caution and sanity to the wind and continue with fossil fuels, or to totally change our life-styles and enormously cut down on the amount of energy that we use, in our personal lives and in industry. We may well do the former, I cannot imagine our society being ready or willing to do the latter.
South Australia was the leading wind power state since construction of Canunda and Lake Bonney Stage 1 wind farms in March 2005, and from late 2005 (following completion of Wattle Point, Cathedral Rocks and Mount Millar) to 2011 hosted about half of Australia's wind power. By the end of 2016 SA's share had fallen to 37% and Victoria's share had risen to 29%.
By 2018 wind power construction had become less attractive in SA because wind farms were fairly frequently having their output 'curtailed' because there was too much power going into the grid. Wind farms were by then being built particularly in Victoria and NSW at a great rate and even in Queensland.
At the beginning of 2019 the Mid-North SA region hosted two thirds of SA's wind power and near a quarter of Australia's wind power in the Clements Gap, Hallet group, Hornsdale, Snowtown and Waterloo wind farms; a total of 1222 MW installed.
It is worth noting that for every wind farm that had been built (about 45 in mid 2011), another four or five (over 200) had been proposed. Would most of these proposed wind farms have been built if conditions were more favourable to sustainable energy development?
Note that installed capacities are a very long way from what they could be. The shortfall is mainly due to lack of government support for renewable energy, particularly the federal Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments that have been blatantly supporting the dying coal industry, but several Liberal state governments have also opposed wind power development, and no Australian government, state or federal, has supported the building of the transmission lines that will be needed to maximise wind power potential.
These pages deal with industrial-scale wind turbines only.
Dept. Environment, Water,
Heritage and the Arts data (2009/02/20) recorded about 50 Australian
'wind farms' of less than 160 kW each, totalling 1.48 MW installed
capacity; I have not included them in these pages.
The table is adjusted for the fact that Starfish Hill Wind Farm was built in 2003 with 23 turbines with one of these being lost to fire in 2010. So far as I know, this is the only case of the loss of a wind turbine to fire from any completed wind farm in Australia. The table is also adjusted for the loss of one turbine at Cathedral Rocks Wind Farm due to the failure of the main shaft. It seems very likely that one or more other turbines have been lost elsewhere and I have not heard of them.
All the figures given in the table below are what the wind farms can produce in ideal wind conditions and are known as 'installed capacities'. Actual generation is less, and the difference is defined as the capacity factor.
|Total installed wind power|
All figures are megawatts (MW); totals are for the end of each year. There may be rounding errors in some figures.
It is worth mentioning that, according to my records, there was 3,530 MW of wind power
under construction in Australia at the end of 2018.
The daily minimum electrical consumption rate in SA at 2008 was around
SA wind farm generation is sometimes greater than consumption and the excess
is exported to other states.
Exporting substantially more power would require the construction of more
interstate power transmission lines (interconnectors).
Annual growth in Australian installed capacity was around 87% from 1996 to 2005, slowed to about 25% from 2005 to 2013, and to 10% from 2013 to 2016 (with the election of the Abbott government).
China alone installed 30.8 GW of wind power in 2015; more than seven times
the total wind power in Australia at the time.
Late 2017 was the first time ever that there was at least one wind farm under construction in every Australian state.
The wind farms that were under construction include:
The Macarthur Wind Farm (420 MW) in Victoria is the biggest in Australia.
The Hallett wind farms of SA could easily be called a single wind farm; all are within a fairly small area and all feed power into a single substation. Brown Hill Range (Hallett #1, 95 MW), Hallett Hill (Hallett #2, 69.3 MW), North Brown Hill (Hallett #4, 132.3 MW) and Bluff Range Wind Farm (Hallett #5, 52.5 MW) are all operating (total 351 MW, graph at right). Willogoleche Wind Farm, 119 MW, at Hallett was under construction in April 2018; when complete it will increase the installed capacity of the Hallett group to 469 MW.
With the completion of Snowtown stage 2 the combined installed capacity of the Snowtown wind farms became 371 MW, making it the biggest in SA at least until Willogoleche, at Hallett is built.
Major wind farms in Australia: greater than 100 MW
This situation changed to a limited extent when the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) made data available from all of the larger Eastern Australian wind farms. Unfortunately, the data are provided in a format that is quite useless to the general public.
It changed again, to a limited extent, with the widget on the right, from NemWatch, kindly being made available free of charge. (The widget was added to this page on 2015/08/02.)
The figures for capacity factors of wind farms, below, were calculated from AEMO data downloaded via the Wind Farm Performance Net site. Andrew Miskelly, who, it seems, runs that site at his own expense and in his own time, recomputes the data from the AEMO and converts it into more useful daily generation graphs. Andrew used to also provide a facility for downloading monthly generation totals for all the larger Australian wind farms; but for some reason stopped this.
Graphs of average power generation, on a month-by-month basis, (up to the time Andrew stopped his service) for each of the wind farms in the table below are given on the state wind farm pages of Wind in the Bush. This can be reached via the menu at the top of this page or the Wind farm index.
The capacity factors and average power outputs were calculated for data recorded in the given periods (inclusive of the starting and ending months). Internationally, I believe, a capacity factor of anything above 30% is considered very good for an on-shore wind farm.
As a resident of Mid-North SA I am pleased to see that Hallett and Snowtown wind farms have the highest capacity factors of the big farms and that the Hallett group is now generating almost twice as much electricity as any other wind farm in Australia (and probably the Southern Hemisphere). Waubra and Woolnorth are the only big wind farms not in Mid-North SA to come close to the capacity factors of Hallett and Snowtown.
All generation data start from the beginning of the month shown and are up to the end of 2012.
To fully understand the table above requires an understanding of power and energy and the difference between them; an explanation is in the glossary.
Notes on the table:
Compare these figure with the installed capacities of major wind farms in Australia.
|From data starting at various dates and ending December 2012|
The data for this graph are the same as those used in
the table above.|
Capacity factors are explained elsewhere. A related concept is wind turbine efficiency.
|From data starting at various dates and ending December 2012|
|The data for this graph are the same as those used in the table above, except that only the totals for Hallett and Lake Bonney are included here.|
What is the story for Australia?
Based on 3240 turbine-years of data from the wind farms having at least two years of operation in the Australian eastern states grid it can be said that there is a variety of figures, with some slight decreases and more slight, or substantial, increases in output. (The data were obtained from the Australian Energy Market Operator.) The average change in generation was an increase of about 0.58MW for each year of operation of each wind farm.
Of 21 wind farms, seven showed a slight decline in generation with time and the remaining 14 showed a slight or substantial increase. Those that showed the greatest increases were Lake Bonney Stage 2, 4.0MW each year; Waterloo, 3.9MW each year; and Waubra, 2.3MW each year.
Australia's wind farms run at a weighted average capacity factor of about 35%; it is doubtful that the capacity/load factor of UK wind farms was ever as low even as the 24% claimed by Hughs; 15% and 11% are beyond belief.
I can only speculate that the likely causes of the general increase is an increase in the expertise of the operators and fine tuning of the turbines with time.
It seems quite increadible that the wind farms in Australia could be performing so well with time while European wind farms performed as poorly as claimed by Hughs. I suggest that Hughs' document is no more than another of the lies attempting to discredit wind power and probably funded by the fossil fuel industry.
Australia has been slow to move into sustainable energy in general and wind power in particular.
Germany has one twenty-first the land area of Australia, yet has about 14 times as much wind power (and hugely more solar power). Spain has about twice the population of Australia, a fifteenth the land area, yet about 11 times as much wind power. Little Denmark, with a quarter our population and 0.6% of our land area has about twice our wind power (Denmark has a higher percentage of wind power than any other country). Even the USA, a nation whose federal administration has, until the recent past, been notoriously against doing anything about greenhouse/climate change, has about 21 times as much wind power as Australia.
Australia had about 2.5GW of installed wind power at the end of 2011; in just that year China installed 16 to 18GW; seven times the total in Australia.
It is interesting to look at wind power in terms of megawatts per billion dollars of gross domestic product (forth column and ranking in fifth column). In this Demark is ahead of Australia by a factor of eight, Portugal ahead by a factor of seven, and Australia comes 21st (fifth column) in the world. Every nation on the table other than Japan is ahead of Australia in MW/$b GDP. New Zealand (not on the table), with 4224 MW/$b GDP, ranks eighth in the world and even countries like Greece, Bulgaria, Costa Rica and India are ahead of Australia. China has twice the investment in wind power per dollar GDP that Australia has. It is interesting that China installed 8 GW of wind power in the first half of 2011 alone – almost four times the total installed wind power in Australia in just six months!
The sixth column shows Watts of installed wind power per capita in the listed countries, with the world ranking shown in the seventh column. In this too, Australia comes a poor 16th.
Australia has huge potential for developing wind power, but has been notably slow in doing so.
The proportion of electricity that can be generated by wind before problems relating to variability of supply become intolerable has been debated for years. The magazine Wind Power Monthly reported that Denmark generated 31.5% of its power by wind in January 2008 (apparently January is its windiest month) and had generated even more in January 2007 (35.5%). Even more important, the article stated that there had been no need to constrain production from the turbines at any time. (I believe that Denmark has the advantage of power-sharing with nearby Norway which has a large hydro-power resource.)
The southern hemisphereI believe that Brazil has the greatest wind energy industry after Australia, reaching 1 GW installed capacity around July 2011. (Reported by Renewable Energy Magazine). Wikipedia stated that New Zealand had 615 MW installed capacity in June 2011.
This produces an unfair discrimination against the small-scale wind
Why would you pay full price for a small wind turbine when you can get
thousands of dollars from the government to install solar?
Both sailing ships and wind turbines are graceful and are works of art, while motor vessels and fossil fuel power stations are simply practical and are means-to-an-end.
Both sailing ships and wind turbines are sustainable; motor vessels and conventional power stations are not, because of the finite reserves of fossil fuels they burn and the damaging carbon dioxide and other pollutants they dump into the atmosphere.
To anyone who says that a wind turbine is not a work of art I would say go and stand in the middle of a modern wind farm and watch while the sun sets. If you go with an open mind you cannot help seeing their beauty and grace: quietly powering our energy-hungry life styles while doing very little harm to the environment. I don't mind admitting that they fascinate me.
Ironically, motor vessels replaced sailing ships, yet wind turbines are,
to some extent, replacing fossil fuel fired power stations. With
greenhouse and the approaching end of oil, will we one day see the
return of sail?
Economists and politicians often make statements such as "Non fossil fuel methods of power generation cannot yet compete financially on a level playing field with fossil fuel fired power stations".
There is no level playing field! Fossil fuel power stations release their damaging carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere at no cost to their operators, while the cost to the planet will be huge. If the fossil fuelled power generators were forced to dispose of their emissions responsibly then the playing field would become level; and they would not be able to compete with some of the more advanced environmentally friendly alternatives. (Also see Fossil fuel electricity in perspective.)
The Australia Institute produced a report titled "The nature and extent of Federal Government subsidies to the mining industry" dated April 2012 and authored by Matt Grundoff. The report stated that the Federal Government alone provides $4 billion annually to the mining industry in subsidies and concessions; this does not include the cost of providing the mining industry with infrastructure, nor State Government susidies.
It is difficult to imagine any cheaper way of getting energy than by digging coal out of the ground, moving it a couple of kilometres, and burning it in a power station. It is as cheap as it is irresponsible, polluting, and unsustainable.
Geosequestration is one way that the fossil fuel industry is hoping to dispose of its carbon dioxide (the Government is subsidising research for them).
The graph on the right compares the costs of various forms of electricity, including the estimated cost of 'responsibly' generated coal-fired power (third from the left). No-one has yet proven this form of generation in practice.
The $64/MWh for coal-fired power with geosequestration on the graph is probably a minimum. Other researchers calculate between Aust$74 and $130; see the cost of geosequestration on my Greenhouse page.
Interestingly, a Queensland government site
gave the cost of nuclear generated electricity as $190-$250/MWh.
How many homes do various companies equate to one installed MW of wind farm?
Why the variation? Perhaps it is due to the perceived quality of the local wind resource, perhaps it depends on how much power households use in different regions, perhaps it is only due to variations in the estimations of company public relations people?
The numbers above vary from 400 to 740 homes per installed megawatt.
If we assume a 35% capacity factor we can calculate that an installed
megawatt will generate 350 kW on average.
If 350 kW will supply 400 homes (at Broken Hill) then the assumption is
875 Watts per home; if it will supply 740 homes (at Ballarat) then the
assumption is 470 Watts per home.
As of September 2010 the largest wind turbines in Australia were the 3 MW (3000 kW) units in use at Lake Bonney and Waterloo wind farms. These have steel towers about 80m high and fibre glass blades about 44m long.
Roaring 40s are considering 3.3 MW turbines for their proposed Stony Gap and Robertstown wind farms.
The technical challenges of lifting loads of nearly 100 tonnes (the Nacelle, including gearbox, dynamo, cooling system, etc.) to heights of around 80m are considerable.
In some European off-shore wind farms, turbines of 6 MW are now being used. They have blades of up to about 65m long (the wingspan of a Boeing 747-400 aircraft is 64.67m – that's the length from wingtip to wingtip). When assembling these turbines, instead of raising the whole of the nacelle and its contents in one lift, as has generally been done in Australian wind farms, I believe that the main components of the nacelle are raised in separate lifts.
One limit to the size of a wind turbine seems to be in the size and perhaps more importantly, the cost, of the crane needed and the difficulty of lifting very heavy loads to great heights.
Importantly the EROI for petroleum is declining as more wells have to be drilled, more pumping done, more high-tech processes used, to obtain the same amount of oil.
It has been suggested that if EROI for our most important energy sources gets down to 10:1 it will begin to have a heavy impact on the modern way of life.
Studies on EROI for many of the energy industries have been reported on
The Oil Drum and in particular
Dr. Cutler Cleveland and Ida Kubiszewski posted an article describing a
meta-analysis on the
of wind power on The Oil Drum.
It should be noted that there is a huge range of EROI values, indicating that the industry is not mature. As the industry matures businesses will learn to develop wind power in areas and using methods that maximise the EROI value.
Cleveland and Kubiszewski calculated an overall average EROI of 18.1, placing "wind energy in a favourable position relative to conventional power generation".
Unfortunately, Cleveland and Kubiszewski's data did not include any information on Australian wind farms. ESIPC (SA Electricity Supply Industry Planning Council) does not record EROI figures for South Australian wind farms.
Kurt Cobb posted on EROI in the Energy Bulletin. Some of his figures for energy sources other than wind are in the table below (I added wind):
EROI x Scale for fossil and renewable energy sources
The original of the figure was posted on the Oil Drum. It relates primarily to US data.
The distance the balloons are from the bottom shows increasing energy return on energy invested. The distance from the left shows increasing power obtained from that source.
Click on the image for a larger, clearer, view.
target of 20% renewable energy by 2020 then wind energy will become a large component of the electricity supply and the forecasting of wind velocities should be, and is being, improved.
Denmark successfully produces some 20% of its electricity by wind farms and plans to increase this to 40% in the future. The Danish Wind Energy Association has confirmed (pers. com.) the need for detailed wind forecasting if a large component of wind power is to be used. Denmark has the advantage of being part of a large European power grid. Australia, on the other hand, has the advantage of being much bigger than Denmark; a wind change on the west coast of Eyre Peninsula will take a long time to affect wind farms in Victoria or eastern NSW.
An effective and efficient wind forecasting system is obviously important for the further development of wind power in Australia.
That report showed that by far the most generous wind farms where those that were community owned (not surprisingly). The most generous wind farms provided a hundred times as much in relation to installed capacity than the least generous.
An example of the extremes is given by the two wind farms under construction in Queensland. The owners of Mount Emerald Wind Farm have promised $1,110/MW ($200,000 for the whole wind farm), while the owners of Coopers Gap Wind Farm have only promised $70/MW ($30,000 for the whole wind farm, which is to be two and a half times the size of Mt Emerald).
I have written a page on the community funding provided by those wind farms listed in the AWA report with the aim of giving credit to those that are generous and shaming those that are miserly.
The material below was written around 2014 and is at least partly now (2018) out of dateMany Australian wind farm operators donate money for the use of the community around their wind farms. The amount distributed varies greatly, with Hepburn being by far the most generous of the wind farm operators and Energy Infrastructure Trust (operator of Wattle Point Wind Farm and a wholly owned subsidiary of ANZ) donating very little (based on inquiries that I made in the Edithburg area).
In some cases the amount is based on the number of turbines, for example $1666 per turbine per year for Gullen Range in NSW, in other cases it is simply a figure for the whole wind farm, for example $50 000 per year for Clements Gap. At least some of the funds are linked to the CPI (and will not be eroded by inflation in future years).
The table on the left lists all those wind farms for which I've been able to find data on community funding. One would suppose that the others probably provide less community funding (otherwise the information would be easy to come by).
It seems that it is not uncommon from wind farm companies to provide no more than around $500 per turbine per year in community funding; yet they are paying farmers $7000 to $14 000 per turbine per year for hosting the turbines. Perhaps some more generosity would increase public acceptance of turbines? Or perhaps the companies should place more resources into getting some local ownership into their wind farms as a way of increasing support?
Individual landowners negotiate with wind farmers for acceptable lease arrangements; should communities have some right to negotiate for community contributions from the wind farmers? They do not have at present.
Note that Hepburn Wind (by far the most generous company in terms of the donation per turbine; see table on the left) is a community owned wind power company and has two turbines.
Compulsory funding?Terry Teoh of Pacific Hydro (one of the most generous companies) made the following comment on 2010/09/14.
"There has been discussion recently in Victoria and NSW by the bureaucrats to make the sustainable community fund compulsory. We are quite concerned about this. The wind industry came to this voluntarily as a way to establish our ethical compass. By making it compulsory, the bureaucrats would destroy the purpose and value of the fund. If Council is used as the fund administrator, it would become a Council budget line, with the State government then reducing their support to Council to compensate. So making the community fund would have the perverse effect of reducing overall funding into the community."(I am cynical enough to believe that councils and state governments might use the voluntary payments from wind farmers as an excuse to reduce funding too!) Some companies are generous, others apparently give very little. Is this fair? Perhaps some level of compulsory funding would be better? Or perhaps making these figures more widely known will place pressure on those companies that are lagging to lift their game?
40% of local residents have invested in the Galmsbüll "Citizens' Wind Farm"A lot more could be done to give Australians the chance to invest in wind farm construction, especially in nearby wind farms, in Australia. Some degree of local ownership could increase acceptance of the wind farms.
Danmark's Samso Island generates more sustainable energy than it consumes and is aiming to be fossil fuel free by 2030. 90% of the wind turbines on Samso are owned by the local people.
Farmers should, for their own protection, make sure that the agreement that they sign does not leave them liable for decommissioning the turbines at the end of their useful life. Depending on how the decommissioning is done, it could be very expensive, especially if nearby native vegetation has to be protected in the decommissioning process.
Most wind farmers also donate money for
community development projects.
Two 300 kW wind turbines were installed at Mawson in 2003 and now make a significant contribution to the station's power requirements.Some statistics on the wind farm were on the AAD Mawson Net site, but this is no longer available.
I thank Lee Sice for alerting me to the AAD net page on the Mawson wind farm.
These acknowledgements are arranged in alphabetical order. I am indebted to a number of others who have provided information but have requested that their names not be mentioned (a pity, because I like to ascribe information sources to allow readers to judge credibility). My apologies to any informants who have helped but I have missed acknowledging.
Photo creditsI have tried to use photos that have some artistic merit; there are a great many on the Internet that do not. Several photos have come from the Net, several others were offered to me by a friend, the others are mine.
Klaus Rockenbauer placed a copy of the photo on the right on Flickr. It is of an Enercon turbine in Munich, Germany. Klaus said:
"On the blades of this wind turbine were placed about 9000 LED's. They draw motives in the night sky every day for about 7 hours. This art-object should be a sign to the energy problem worldwide and also is the biggest Christmas-star of the world."
The Osram Net site had a page on the turbine:
"Right on time for the first Advent Sunday it is obvious to all: But still it moves! Siemens – together with multimedia artist Michael Pendry – has lighted up the world's biggest revolving Christmas star. The lighting installation can be seen throughout December  at the northern gateway to Munich – beginning at dusk every evening."
The entire installation uses only as much electricity as a hair dryer or a water kettle, yet in good weather it can be seen for 30 kilometres.
A similar thing could be done in Australia.
It could have the potential to make turbines more of an attraction than
they are at present.
TowersMany older wind turbines have steel lattice towers, all industrial-scale wind turbines in Australia have tubular steel towers.
RotationSome turbines rotate at variable rates, for example Vestas; others rotate at a constant rate, for example Acciona at Gunning Wind Farm. Some turbines within older US wind farms rotate in opposite directions, all turbines in any particular Australian wind farm rotate in the same direction.
Downwind, upwindSome older turbines have the blades on the downwind side of the tower; this has been found to lead to more noise due to the blades passing through the turbulent air from the tower. All Australian industrial-scale wind turbines have the blades upwind from the tower so that they can rotate in 'clean' air.
Rotating blades or blade-tipsIn most Australian turbines the blade can be rotated as a whole (twisted about its long axis) to make it interact with the wind at the optimal angle, or to stop the turbine for whatever purpose. Some turbines, such as the Neg Micon ones at Starfish Hill Wind Farm have blade tips that can be rotated independently of the bulk of the blade.
Gear-box or notMost electrical generators have to rotate at a much higher speed than the rotation rate of a wind turbine, so most wind turbines have a gear-box to increase the rotation rate something like ninety-fold compared to the turbine rotor. The Enercon turbines at Mount Millar Wind Farm have annular generators that do not require fast rotation and therefore have no gear-box. I don't know of any other turbines in Australia having annular generators than those at Mount Millar.
Wind speedsMost Australian turbines can generate power from a wind that is at least four metres per second. Most turbines reach their rated power at about 14m/s, see Efficiency of wind turbines. Most turbines shut down, to protect themselves from damage, at about 25 m/s. The Vestas turbines at Collgar Wind Farm, near Merridin in WA, are rated at 1.86 MW, while the same model at Waterloo Wind Farm is rated at 3 MW. This is because the winds at Merridin are generally lighter than those at Waterloo.
FootingsIf a turbine is built on bed-rock it can make use of 'rock anchors' to secure a relatively small concrete footing (about 220 tonnes) to the underlying bed-rock. If there is no shallow bed-rock, or the bed-rock is shattered, then heavier footings (about 800 tonnes), that are capable of holding the turbine in place without any attachment to underlying materials, must be used.
Order of assemblySuzlon turbines are generally built by first placing the first two sections of the tower, followed by the next two tower sections, then the nacelle is lifted. The blades are attached to the hub on the ground and the final big lift raises the entire rotor. Apparently Acciona turbines generally have the hub and blades lifted and attached individually.
Operating or under construction:
Community owned wind farm, or not?When is a wind farm community owned? One would think that a community owned wind farm would be owned by the local community. One might think that anyone within the local community might have the right to partake in investment in the project.
Anyone can buy shares in
Hepburn Wind Farm, there is
no need for them to be local people.
I am informed that there are only 13 share holders in
Mount Barker Wind Farm,
that one person has a 51% controlling interest and that it is 70% owned
by the Great Southern Community.
The Senate inquiry into the Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms: June 2011My impression was that the report from the inquiry was reasonable and balanced. I will not try to summarise the report here, it can be downloaded from the Parliament net site.
However, I did notice some errors:
Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines: August 2015This committee was intended to produce a report that would be heavily biased against wind turbines; it did not disappoint. It was made up of six senators, four of whom had records of attacking wind power. Senator Nick Xenophon was a 'participating member'.
I have written about the errors and foolish, or simply false, statements regarding wind power made by these senators on other pages on this site:
In particular, the committee's majority report did not so much as mention Health Canada's report on wind farm noise; the most pains-taking report on the subject ever done.
Professor Simon Chapman wrote a piece for The Conversation that discusses turbine noise in relation to sleep disturbance, but also goes into the bias in this report.
Opinion survey: Upper Lachlan, Crookwell area, August 2008The Electoral Commission of NSW conducted a poll for the Upper Lachlan Shire Council. The Crookwell Wind Farm had been built in the council area in 1998.
A summary of the poll results:
Opinion survey: Pacific Hydro, November 2011In November 2011 Pacific Hydro surveyed attitudes to wind energy in ten communities across Victoria, NSW and SA where wind farms were operating or proposed. The main results were:
"The ... survey polled 1000 residents across 10 electorates in NSW, SA and Victoria that are in wind farming regions. The Victorian five electorates were also polled (by QDos) in 2010 as part of a similar sized survey (ten electorates in wind farming regions) which yielded very consistent results on wind farm attitudes as we saw from this year's survey.The survey quized one hundred people in each of ten communities: Ripon, Ballarat West and South West Coast (all Victoria), Polworth, Macedon, Goulburn, Yass and Crookwell (all NSW) and Clare and Barossa Valley in SA.
Pacific Hydro were not willing to release the methodology used in the survey.
Thus there is a question about the survey accuracy.
Opinion survey: CSIRO, November 2011A few days before the Pac. Hydro report, CSIRO released a report, "Acceptance of Rural Windfarms in Australia: a snapshot". Some of its key findings were:
Opinion survey: Clean Energy Council, December 2011I have become aware that another survey of wind power acceptance was carried out in late December for the Clean Energy Council, and while the results have not yet (2012/01/26) been officially released, the results showed in the vicinity of a 75% acceptance of wind farms. This survey was carried out by Market Metrics.
Opinion survey: Mid North SA - TRUenergy, March 2011A Community Survey, March 2011, involving 358 people living near the existing Waterloo, and proposed Stony Gap and Robertstown wind farms. The survey indicated that 66% of respondents were concerned about climate change, 77% supported wind farms, 69% supported nearby wind farms, and a majority saw wind farms as positives for: appearance, tourism, local business, short term jobs, local economy and landholder income.
Opinion survey: The Australia Institute, December 2014Two reports on research done by The Australia Institute examined the impact of, and broad public attitudes toward, wind power and solar energy. A few extracts from the Australia Institute's summary of the results:
Australians are clearly concerned about the existing and long-term impacts of our national addiction to fossil-fuels. They clearly envisage a future powered by renewables," said Dr Jeremy Moss, Director of the Social Justice Initiative at University of Melbourne and a co-author of the reports.
Opinion survey: NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, November 2015Community Attitudes to Renewable Energy in NSW; summary page; full report, pdf.
The survey was conducted from late August to mid-September 2014, the report was dated November 2015. The following is quoted from the summary page...
Opinion survey: Crystal Brook Energy Park, 2018 and 2019This proposed development is within five kilometres of my home, so is of particular interest to me, see Why I support the local wind farm. A poll in a local newspaper showed 83% support for the energy park in 2018. Another poll, included with a very negative article about the proposed energy park in 2019 showed 74% support.
Council income and wind farmsWind farms are very expensive developments. They have very high capital values. It is difficult to find out how much income councils get from wind farm developments.
In one of Acciona's newsletters (#18) for the Waubra Wind Farm it was stated that "Almost $1 million has been paid to Pyrenees Shire Council and City of Ballarat through rates".
In the minutes for the Waterloo/Stony Gap wind farm Community Liason Committee meeting minutes for August 2012 it was stated that about $50 000 was paid as planning fees for the six-turbine Waterloo stage 2 proposal; the corresponding figure for the 37-turbine Waterloo Wind Farm's planning fees were $196 000.
There are several main groups or classes of opposition:
There is a very strong, organised and entrenched opposition to wind power in Australia. While the fossil fuel industry does not readily admit to opposing renewable energy it is very hard to immagine where else this lobbying and misinformation campaign could be coming from. Why should the Liberal Party be opposed to renewable energy development in Australia if they are not being pushed by the mining and fossil fuels industries? They must know that renewables are very popular among the Australian people, so they wouldn't be doing it for reason of chasing votes.
Opposition to renewable energy in the Murdoch media seems particularly strong; I wonder if this is due to links with the fossil fuel or mining industry.
I have written more on this subject on a dedicated page.
What motivates those who support and those who object to wind farms? Are the motivations selfish or altruistic? Are the supporters and objectors concerned mainly with local matters or with global matters? (I should say here that I do not necessarily condemn those who object for selfish reasons; we all have the right to look after ourselves; if we don't in many cases no-one else will.) Of course NIMBYism is relevant here.
Many supporters, including spokesmen for the wind farming companies, talk about the advantages that will accrue to the local area. Companies do not have motivations; it is only people who have motivations. The spokesmen for the wind farm companies, I suspect, in most cases are motivated by the need to convince the local people of the desirability of the wind farm.
Then there is the motivation of the bosses of the corporations involved. Several, perhaps most, of the companies that are operating or proposing wind farms also have heavy investment in fossil fuels: coal, gas, coal-seam gas. One would have to wonder how keen these people are to see wind power succeed.
Interestingly, I have been told of one farmer who told his neighbour, "If I get turbines on my place I am for them, otherwise I'm opposed".
Also see my motivation for writing these pages.
I have followed climate change science for thirty years or more; I have been reading and subscribing to Scientific American for about 35 years. Climate change and ocean acidification, both caused largely by the greenhouse gasses that humanity is putting into the atmosphere, will be disasters of a magnitude that few people even grasp. They will result in thousands or, more likely, millions of species becoming extinct; extensive changes to almost all of the world's environments; and the displacement and possibly the deaths of billions of people.
The development of renewable energy will slow the impact of climate change and ocean acidification. Wind power (followed increasingly closely by solar PV) happens to be the most market-ready form of renewable energy available to us in the early part of the 21st century.
I have no desire to see anyone harmed, but if we can significantly slow the onset of climate change at the cost of some thousands or tens of thousands of people world-wide being slightly inconvenienced by hearing and seeing wind turbines, I see that as a price well worth paying.
So, I want renewable energy to be developed as quickly as possible for the good of the planet and the best way in which that can be achieved is for people to be helped to understand the facts of wind power, rather than hearing and reading only the lies and delusions that are spread by those who are opposed to wind turbines.
In response to some of the attacks that objectors make on my Net pages it seems that I need to say that I am not under any delusions that the big power companies such as Energy Australia are generally admirable or 'good guys'; I fully realise that they are mainly building wind farms in order to make a profit. Energy Australia, for example, not only builds and owns wind farms, but also highly polluting coal-fired power stations. These pages are an attempt to support renewable energy, not to support the big corporations that are building wind farms.top of each page. Obviously, since my primary aim is ethical, misrepresentation of the facts cannot be acceptable to me.
My aim is that everything on these pages that is not plainly an opinion should be true and also verifiable. I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it.
Also see my motivation in writing these pages.
On this page...
About these pages
Acceptance of wind farms
Australian Antarctic Territory Wind Farm
Benefits of wind power
Biggest wind farms in Oz-graph
CO2 abatement by wind farms
CO2 reduction from one wind turbine
Capacity factor achieved
Capacity factors of conventional power stations-graph
Capacity factors of wind farms-graph
Chronology of wind farm construction
Cocos Island Wind Farm
Community investment in wind energy
Community wind farms
Components of wind turbine
Construction stages: wind farm
Cost of wind power (on a separate page)
Councils and wind farms
Differences in turbines
Energy return on investment
Energy return on investment-graph
Energy return on investment-table
Evolution of wind turbines
Facts and errors
Frequency Control and Ancillary Services (FCAS)
Future of wind power
Generation rate change with time
How big can wind turbines get
How does Australia compare
Installed wind power-table
Installed wind power, World and Oz-graph
Installed wind power, by wind farm-table
Leading countries in wind power-table
Level playing field
Limits to growth
Limits to wind turbine size
Links relating to wind power
Major wind farms in Australia
Major wind farms in Australia-table
Motivation of supporters and objectors
Number of homes supplied
Off-shore wind power
Operating wind farms MW generated-graph
Payments to land-owners
Power generation of wind farms
Power generation of wind farms-graph
Power generation of wind farms-table
Price agreements in Australia
Small wind disadvantaged
Steps in building a wind farm
Survey-Bungendore Wind Farm
Survey-TRUenergy Mid North SA
Tourism and wind farms
Two Senate inquiries
Typical wind turbine-illustration
Who opposes wind power development?
Why not in Wikipedia
Will Australia reach 20% by 2020
Wind farm construction steps
Wind farm power generation
Wind farms under construction
Wind farms under construction-table
Wind power by states-graph
Wind power capacity in Australia
Wind power in Australia
Wind power in territories
Wind power installed per capita-graph
Wind turbine art
Wind turbines and sailing ships
World wind power
Key word index...
general index on the home page.
Pages on wind farms in each state...
New South Wales
Wind farm photo pages...
Solar power in Australia
Sustainable energy in Australia
The index on the left is generated by a computer search for a class of hypertext references to 'wind farm'; references to 'wind farms' and 'wind farm ' (note the final space character) are excluded from this index and are listed in the Australia Master Index.
The number of entries does not give an indication of the number of (proposed and operating) wind farms in Australia because several farms have two names, both of which are listed in the index.