Originally written by JASON WALLACE
ENERGY Minister Theo Theophanous looked satisfied as he gazed across the Yambuk landscape on Monday, watching the first turbine begin to turn in stage one of the $270m Portland Wind Energy Project.
The turbine was already supplying power to the electricity network as construction contractor Vestas continued conducting tests in the final and most challenging phase of the 20-turbine Yambuk wind farm construction, according to site manager Peter Reed.
He said Vestas planned to hand the site over to project proponent Pacific Hydro by the end of next month or early September.
By then, each tower will be producing enough electricity to power 1000 homes, according to Mr Theophanous.
He said Victoria’s wind farms were world class, operating at 30-40 per cent efficiency, and that “every megawatt produced from wind energy is one less we need to produce from fossil fuels”.
“It is part of the answer to reducing our greenhouse emissions,” he said, adding that gas peaking stations may not need to be operating on windy days due to wind farm developments.
He did not comment on whether expectations the Portland Wind Energy Project would create hundreds of jobs had proven true, but said he was pleased around 80 long-term, full-time positions had been secured at the Keppel Prince Engineering tower manufacturing facility, along with 60 at the Vestas blade plant, which both received financial support from the government.
Mr Theophanous said he was excited by prospects Vestas would soon export blades from Portland to Canada.
The company has also received an order for 48 sets of blades for the Emu Downs Wind Farm north of Perth.
“An industry has been established in the Portland region Ñ not just a wind farm,” said Mr Theophanous, adding that construction of the Yambuk wind farm had also generated significant short term activity for businesses in the region.
“Over a hundred jobs in regional Victoria is vital,” he said, adding that employment growth in the industry could continue if the Federal Government raised the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target, which would help secure the proposed wind farm at Macarthur.
The Macarthur project would claim the Portland wind farm’s title as the largest in the southern hemisphere if it went ahead.
Meanwhile, Pacific Hydro expects to secure final development approval for the next three sections of the Portland Wind Energy Project on capes Grant, Nelson and Bridgewater in the next few weeks.
Delays in the granting of the approvals are believed to have already caused frustrating delays for businesses involved in the development.
Mr Theophanous said stringent processes had to be followed in wind farm developments.
“There are always planning concerns to consider, including bird, landscape and noise issues, but the impact of the Yambuk wind farm has been minimal,” he said.
The Yambuk wind farm is adjacent to the Codrington wind farm, but has taller infrastructure than its predecessor, with the tips of its blades reaching 105 metres above ground level, while those previously installed at Codrington reach a height of only 80 metres.
The tips of the blades of the tallest towers planned for the next stage of the Portland Wind Energy Project will reach a height of 119 metres.