There are two things in life I love: wind energy and my home.
OK. In reality, there are many things in love, but I promise that wind energy and Australia are on my list, and so when I saw that Hydro Tasmania is looking at building the biggest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere, I was immediately intrigued.
For those unsure of the geography of Australia, here’s a little helper-image I whipped up for you.
As you can see, the ugly stepchild we on the mainland call Tasmania floats off the bottom of our continent like an unwanted piece of driftwood. King Island is probably what Tasmanians consider their ugly stepchild, drifting around off the northeast of the island.
And according to Hydro Tasmania, King Island is where the company hopes to build the $2 billion project that is expected to create up to 500 jobs during the two-year construction period.
If built — and at the moment it is currently an ‘if’ — the 600-megawatt wind farm would produce approximately 2400 gigawatt-hours of renewable electricity for the national market, using around 200 wind turbines. That’s enough energy to supply nearly 240,000 homes with electricity, and would represent more than 5% of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target, as well as reducing the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere by around 1.9 million tonnes a year.
The proposal, known as TasWind, is currently in the early phases of consulting with the islands community to determine its feedback over the next three months.
David Crean, Hydro Tasmania Chair, said that for the past 15 months Hydro Tasmania had been assessing the wind farm concept on the island to utilise the world-class resource of the prevailing Roaring Forties, the name given to the strong westerly winds that blow between the latitudes of 40 and 50 degrees in the Southern Hemisphere (i.e. right over the top of King Island).
“While sitting in the path of the world-class wind resource that is the Roaring 40s makes King Island the perfect location for such a project, it is important to emphasise that it is very early days,” Dr Crean said.
Dr Crean said the work done to date indicated it was broadly feasible from a technical, economic, and environmental perspective. The Tasmanian Government had expressed its strong support for the project proceeding to the consultation stage.
“It is most important that we seek the views of the King Island community,” he said. “Their support is crucial for the project to go to the full feasibility stage.”
Here’s more from Dr Crean:
“The project will only proceed to full feasibility if the majority of King Islanders are in favour. That is why we are embarking on a consultation process that aims to set a high standard nationally for engaging with local communities on major renewable energy projects.
“Such a project would also require extensive and detailed social, economic and environmental investigations, as well as regulatory approval at both state and federal level, before it became a reality.
“Obviously a project of this size would have considerable benefits for the island in terms of jobs, infrastructure development and likely upgrades to existing facilities such as the port, while injecting considerable additional value into the local economy.
“However, we also recognise there will be a level of concern in some quarters and many questions about the project. We want to ensure King Islanders have all the information they need and every opportunity to discuss the issues and concerns they may have.
“Their views and input would provide vital feedback to help our business make the right decision with and for the people of King Island.”