Australian news, and some related international items

Victoria starts off an Australia-wide movement to community-owned wind farms

In the United Kingdom and Europe, community-owned projects are commonplace. Denmark alone has over 200,000 investors owning more than 5,500 turbines.

Communities embark on clean energy path EcoGeneration — January/February 2011 Construction has commenced at Australia’s first community-owned wind farm in Victoria. Going first has meant a long, hard road for the team behind the project, but now many other communities around Australia are asking how it was done. Embark’s Alicia Webb reports.

In the United Kingdom and Europe, community-owned projects are commonplace. Denmark alone has over 200,000 investors owning more than 5,500 turbines. In the United States and Canada, the community renewables sector is strong and growing, with an installed capacity similar to Australia’s entire renewables sector.
Here in Australia, Hepburn Wind is building a two-turbine wind farm at Leonards Hill, approximately 10 km south of Daylesford in Victoria. Work on the project began five years ago, when the Hepburn Renewable Energy Association was established as a grassroots community movement, running town hall meetings, more than 100 street information stalls, and taking more than 250 locals on bus trips to wind farms.

With assistance from a developer, the project’s permit application was submitted to Hepburn Shire in early 2007. The unprecedented levels of community engagement paid off – although council received 18 objections, the planning department was overwhelmed with a reported 320 letters of support.

Over the past two years Hepburn Wind has secured over $8.4 million from more than 1,350 mostly local members, with the balance of the $12.9 million project funded by Victorian State Government grants and a finance facility from the Bendigo Bank
As well as turning the first sod, the Victorian Minister for the Environment Gavin Jennings launched an independent non-profit organisation called Embark, dedicated to establishing a robust community renewable energy sector.

Mary Dougherty, Executive Director of Embark, took the opportunity to outline the organisation’s vision of assisting other communities to establish their own renewable energy projects.

It aims to build on the lessons learned by Hepburn Wind by systematically addressing the barriers the project came across, so that communities around the country can adapt and implement the Hepburn model to their own requirements. Embark hopes to shift the community energy sector into the mainstream as a proven and financially-viable model, capable of attracting large-scale investment……..

In response to a barrage of practical questions from communities, Embark has developed a collaborative wiki site, partially funded by Sustainability Victoria. With the help of experts across industry, government, academia and members of Hepburn Wind, the site is already a valuable resource for communities. More than 100 articles cover a broad range of topics on how to start and run a community group, project establishment, funding and finance, legal structures, communications, community engagement, solar bulk buy schemes, and wind farm project development.

In addition to this practical assistance, Embark is bringing sustainability and renewable energy community groups together so they can share knowledge and build a network of known suppliers, developers and financiers interested in this emerging sector…

Communities embark on clean energy path — EcoGeneration — The magazine for Australia’s clean energy industry

January 12, 2011 - Posted by | energy, Victoria

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