Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Wind Country Notes
The development of the wind energy sector got off to a slow start in Australia. The resource had been used historically for water pumping in isolated locations but there existed no comprehensive wind industry. The situation began to change at the end of the 1980s (when the first 20 kW grid-connected turbine was installed in Victoria) and gathered momentum during the 1990s. By end-1999, total installed capacity stood at just over 10 MW (wind-diesel hybrid and grid-connected schemes) and the Australian Wind Energy Association (AusWEA) had just been formed.
The Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act of 2000 established the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) which came into effect in April 2001. This piece of legislation, the founding of the AusWEA and the establishment of an indigenous wind turbine manufacturing sector are considered to have been fundamental in transforming the country's wind industry. By end-2005 708 MW had been installed across all states, representing the third year in a row in which capacity had nearly doubled. By end-2006, the total had risen to 817 MW, comprising approximately 450 turbines. There are some 40 plants operating, of which 17 are wind-diesel hybrid projects, including Mawson Base in the Australian Antarctica Division.
The MRET scheme was designed to ensure that large energy users and wholesalers purchased 2% of their requirements from renewable sources by 2010. Its success has meant that this target was reached almost twice as quickly as planned. In place of any further mandatory legislation from the Federal Government, some of the State Governments have set their own targets in order to sustain the momentum of the renewable energy market.
The existing national electricity grid is capable of supporting up to 8 000 MW wind capacity - the planned projects are consistent with this level. At end-2006, there was 521 MW under construction and a further 2 109 MW with planning approval, 345 MW seeking approval, 165 MW under tender and 2 339 MW undergoing feasibility studies.
A synergy from combining wind and hydropower has been facilitated by the Basslink interconnector, an undersea cable across the Bass Strait. The cable, which became operational in April 2006, connects Tasmania to the national electricity market via Victoria, allowing Tasmania to supply peaking power at premium prices to Victoria at times of high demand in both summer and winter. It will also enable the export of new renewable energy from wind farm developments to the mainland market.
A considerable amount of wind-related legislation is in place: The National Greenhouse Strategy, the Renewable Energy Action Agenda, the 2004 White Paper on Energy and the Environment, the Green Power national accreditation program, and the Australian Greenhouse Office initiatives are all playing their role in the deployment of renewable energy in general. In order to sustain the growth of recent years it will be necessary for the wind energy industry to overcome various impediments and to implement the relevant policies. but at this stage the outlook for wind is promising.