30 August 2012 – Victoria and NSW governments have signalled they are anti wind power. So why, among other indicators, is giant Siemens working on a gigantic turbine blade wingspan slightly less than an Airbus 380, with turbine blade 75 metres long, and when the blades are spinning, an area coverage of 18,600 square metres?

Wind power in Australia is at the cross roads. On one hand, it’s beset by campaigns from vested interests and heavy handed governments. At the same time, an increasing amount of investment interest is now being focused on supplying renewable energy such as wind and gas during periods of peak demand on the hottest and coldest days of the year.

With an eye on his partners in the Nationals, New South Wales premier Barry O’Farrell has derided wind energy. As he told 2GB here, Barry O’Farrell on wind farm applications, he wouldn’t approve any applications if he has his way.

Similarly in Victoria, Premier Ted Baillieu introduced planning rules for wind farms last year that are some of the toughest that apply to any type of development of this sort anywhere in the country. Under the Victorian laws, no wind farm can be built within two kilometres of a person’s home without their consent, wind farms are now excluded from “no go” zones stretching across the state and all wind farms require planning approval from the local council. Wind farms must comply with environmental laws like any other project. No new wind projects have been proposed in Victoria since they have been introduced.

Here is a list of proposals that have since been killed off since those laws came in. The wind farms that Baillieu killed…

New South Wales has followed Victoria’s onerous approach. Western Australia and Queensland still haven’t addressed wind farms in their planning frameworks. The only state taking wind power seriously is South Australia.

Lawyers say that while the Federal Government is rolling out funds to support wind energy, it’s being undermined by tough planning regulations in the states and territories.  And they say that will discourage business investment.

“The Federal Government has set up a number of initiatives to drive investment in renewable energy (at least $20 billion worth of investment expected to be driven by the Renewable Energy Target, $10 billion has been allocated to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, $3.2 billion to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and, of course, the carbon price, which will help improve the competitiveness of renewable technology).

“Tough planning regulations at the state level will block the potential of these federal initiatives to increase wind farm development. Inevitably, those states which strike a genuine balance between community concern and supporting wind farm development will receive the lion’s share of investment. So far, only one state seems serious about this opportunity.”

See: Australia: Gone with the wind: Planning Regulations Blow Away Investment

The reality however is that there is a strong business case for wind power. The Australian Energy Market Operator which closely monitors and operates the national electricity network, says https://www.aemo.com.au/en/About-AEMO/Media-Releases/~/media/Files/Other/corporate/Reduced_energy_growth_Media_Release.pdf.ashx investment interest is focused on supplying renewable energy, particularly wind.  As it says in its Electricity Statement of Opportunities https://www.aemo.com.au/Electricity/Planning/~/media/Files/Other/planning/2012_ESOO_Executive_summary.pdf.ashx , most of the new renewable energy projects will be coming from wind generation, although it concedes that many wind projects are not proceeding because of state planning rules. Nonetheless, it expects wind power to attract massive investment through to 2016.

At the same time, coal-fired plants are struggling to gain finance and environmental approval.

Last month, for example, the parent company of the Latrobe Valley’s Hazelwood power station – now more than 40 years old – had to inject $650 million of rescue capital into Hazelwood after it was unable to secure bank finance.

And as the Australian Energy Technology Assessment from Australia’s Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics https://www.bree.gov.au/documents/publications/Australian_Energy_Technology_Assessment.pdf points out, the carbon pricing scheme will make coal more expensive and wind cheaper.

That’s why wind is attracting investors. As reported here in “Asia eyes green energy in Australia” https://www.theasset.com/article/22511.html Australian wind power is attracting a lot of interest from Asian investors.

Not surprisingly powerful companies like Siemens have moved into this space. Unlike the Liberal state premiers like Baillieu and O’Farrell, they can see the investment opportunity. Then again, unlike Baillieu and O’Farrell, the people behind a company like Siemens know how to run a business.

Gizmodo, https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2012/08/monster-machines-worlds-biggest-wind-turbine-blades-spin-at-290kmh/, gives us details about the gigantic turbine blade Siemens is now producing. It’s slightly less than the wingspan of an Airbus 380. The B75 turbine blade itself is 75 metres long, and the entire rotor assembly measures 154 metres in diameter.

When they’re spinning, the blades cover an area of 18,600 square metres —  or about two and a half soccer fields — at a brisk 80 metres per second, or 290km/h at the tips. This means it will generate a tremendous amount of force when it spins. That’s a lot of electricity. The blade is now being installed in Denmark and we can expect to see it here with Siemens now appointed to build South Australia’s biggest wind farm. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-08-01/siemens-to-build-snowtown-wind-farm/4169362?section=sa

In other words, the business and investment momentum behind wind power is building with coal becoming more expensive and less economically viable.

As for the Liberal state governments trying to stop the inevitable, they are not really embracing the business of renewables which is now a big investment opportunity. They have sacrificed business investment principles for ideology.