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Regional areas to reap economic benefits of new wind and solar farms after new RET passes Federal Parliament

2015-06-29 09:58:58

Up to 50 new wind and solar farms are expected to be built in regional Australia, after a bill on a new Renewable Energy Target passed Federal Parliament this week.

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AUDIO: Clean Energy Council and Australian Forest Products Association say a new Renewable Energy Target will generate jobs in regional Australia. (ABC Rural)


An international consortium has announced plans to build a $450 million wind farm near Ararat, in western Victoria, and the Clean Energy Council expects it will be the first of many new projects.

"The Ararat wind farm really represents the first green shoots for an industry that's been doing in extremely tough for the last 18 months," the council's Mark Bretherton said.

"We're very confident that, with the bipartisan support that's been restored to the Renewable Energy Target, we'll see a lot more activity in this sector over the next few years."

Mr Bretherton said between 30 to 50 major wind and solar projects, worth an estimated $10 billion, were expected to be built over the next five years, with most of those in rural areas.

"Most of the opportunity that we are going to see over the next five years will probably be in the wind and solar farm sector, so what that means is basically where there is the strongest wind and an opportunity to connect to the grid you'll see wind farms, where there is the best sun, you'll probably see some solar farms, particularly where there is enough land to build those kind of projects."

He predicted regional areas would see the greatest economic benefits of new renewable energy projects.

"That's really good news, particularly for people who live in those areas. What it means is extra income being paid to farmers, direct jobs and it means money being paid for community projects as well.

"But apart from local jobs, it also means money is being spent at local restaurants, corner stores, equipment suppliers, motels, pie-sellers and much, much more."

Controversy over native wood waste burning

A controversial aspect of the Renewable Energy Target is the inclusion of the burning of native wood waste as a renewable energy source.

The Greens and environment groups have argued it will encourage more logging of native forests, endangering habitats of native wildlife.

But Ross Hampton, the chief executive officer of the Australian Forest Products Association, said it would not change logging practices.

"Everything we do is highly regulated, highly controlled ... and you can't take any more trees. This makes no difference to the amount of forestry that is available to our industry. It doesn't change that at all," Mr Hampton said.

"All it does is enable our industry to make some use of their by-products and the offcuts and the residues that are produced as they go about their business now."

Mr Hampton predicted the incentive of earning money through renewable energy certificates could spur on the development of small-scale power generators in some regional areas.

"We hope to see in Australia perhaps some small-scale regional power operations commence that could access these offcuts and these residues, powering small communities," he said.

Original Article:
By Catherine McAloon

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