Originally written by ALEXANDRA WEAVER
CONSTRUCTION at Mortlake’s $640 million power station has officially begun, but the future of other south-west energy projects is less certain.
Premier John Brumby this week turned the first sod at the Mortlake site, which will produce 550 megawatts of electricity to help Victoria cope with periods of peak demand.
“The Mortlake Power Station is delivering jobs now and helping to build a cleaner energy future for Victoria,” Mr Brumby said.
The gas-fired Origin Energy station is expected to create 400 jobs during construction, with an additional 100 workers already employed to build a transmission pipeline from a new gas processing plant at Port Campbell.
“This is an exciting time for the south-west, because projects like this secure jobs,” Mr Brumby said.
An $8 billion energy boom earmarked for the region last year, however, appears to be falling short of expectations.
A 330MW wind farm project at Macarthur has been put on hold, with developer AGL delaying a decision on its future for at least the next year.
Glenthompson’s 32-turbine Oaklands Hill wind farm appears more secure, with a call on whether to proceed expected before the end of 2009.
AGL spokesman Nathan Vass said the company had reviewed its wind farm projects at a recent meeting.
“Macarthur is defined as possible; Oaklands Hill is under development with an approved budget,” he said.
Southern Grampians Mayor Marcus Rentsch said he was pleased the Oaklands Hill project was moving forward.
“That’s a major one – the other one is the Morton’s Lane wind farm near Woodhouse,” he said.
“Morton’s Lane hasn’t progressed as quickly as we’d hoped.”
NewEn Australia, the company responsible for building the Morton’s Lane wind farm, hopes to begin construction within the next year.
One of the company’s directors, Ernst Weyhausen, said the project would be capable of producing 29.9MW from up to 15 turbines.
“We do have planning permit approval, and we’re currently waiting for a connection agreement with Powercor to be able to connect to the existing grid,” he said.
NewEn would seek contractors and other staff from areas around Woodhouse, Mr Weyhausen said.
Other regional wind farms remain in limbo, including those planned at sites near Hawkesdale and Port Fairy.
The developments’ original backer, TME Australia, has been acquired by Union Fenosa Wind Australia. A company spokesman told The Spectator that financial close had not been achieved on either project.
He could not provide a timeline for when construction at the facilities might begin.
Union Fenosa’s website states that development approval has been granted for 62MW at Hawkesdale and 136MW at Ryan Corner, about 10 kilometres north-west of Port Fairy.
News is more positive when it comes to other regional projects, including the Santos-backed Shaw River Power Station near Orford.
Construction on the $800 million development is scheduled to begin next year, with generation likely to start in 2012.
Up to 600 jobs will be created during the two-year construction period, including 35 full-time positions that will continue once the station is operating.
Mining company Beaconsfield Gold has also reported extensive deposits at its Thursday’s Gossan and Junction copper prospects near Glenthompson.
The company told The Spectator last December that it planned to spend more time investigating the area, with a mine possible if further deposits were found.
Cr Rentsch said job opportunities in the south-west were still solid.
“I think we’re doing very well. I can’t say we will be immune to tough times, but I’m confident that we will remain strong,” he said.