ACT News

Local wind farms face uncertain future if bidding whispers are accurate

The Government is offering successful companies a guaranteed feed-in price for 20 years.

Local wind farms might have missed out altogether on the ACT wind auction, leaving a number of major projects in doubt in the Canberra region.

Environment Minister Simon Corbell was to have made an announcement before Christmas on the projects to be funded with a 20-year feed-in tariff, but the announcement is now expected early in February. Nevertheless, successful companies appear to have been notified, leaving a number in the wider Canberra region without funding and with a very uncertain future.

Many wind farms face an uncertain future.
Many wind farms face an uncertain future. Photo: Ken James

Website reported last week two Victorian wind farms and one South Australian wind farm were believed to have been successful, outbidding 15 others who tried to get a share of the 200 megawatts of capacity on offer from the ACT Government.

The likely winners, according to that source, are a Hornsdale project in South Australia, the Ararat wind farm owned by British-based RES, and the small Coonooer Bridge project in northwest Victoria near Bendigo.

Coonooer Bridge is a project of just six turbines and 18 megawatts capacity jointly owned by Canberra company Windlab and about 30 local owners.

Windlab is a spin-off company from the CSIRO set up in 2003. Director Nathan Steggel wouldn't comment this week on the status of the project or his dealings with the Government, saying only that he was awaiting an announcement.


The company has two projects in operation, one in Victoria's Grampians region and another in Western Australia, plus others in development.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Simon Corbell said on Tuesday the government was still in negotiation with the preferred bidders and couldn't comment further.

If confirmed, the success of those three would leave projects in Bungendore, Collector, Crookwell and other areas around Canberra with a very uncertain future.

A report to the ACT Government a year ago said there were five wind farms operating in the Canberra region. Another six had received development approval, three still without a power purchase agreement, and eight more were in active development. 

Crookwell project director for Union Fenosa Shaq Mohajerani said the outcome was disappointing for the ACT region, and reflected the cheaper prices in the southern states. He was unsure of where that left the Crookwell project, especially in light of the uncertainty over the federal renewable energy target, and was awaiting advice from his company about what to do next.

Mr Mohajerani said in September the ACT Government's funding of renewable energy was sustaining the industry as the only thing happening in renewables at the moment.

Infigen, which also described the ACT as "the only show in town" was hoping to win funding for its Capital Wind Farm 2 project near Bungendore on the eastern side of Lake George.

Ratch Australia wanted funding for a wind farm at Collector near Lake George. Asked on Tuesday about the suggestion that only projects in Victoria and South Australia had won funding, project director Anthony Yeates said the company had no more information and was "still working out exactly what it means".

"We're committed to proceeding with the project we need to source an off-take agreement of some sort to make that happen," he said.

The Government is offering successful companies a guaranteed feed-in price for 20 years for about 560,000 megawatt hours of electricity a year, supplying nearly a quarter of the city's electricity in 2020. Mr Corbell was hoping to secure the wind energy at less than $100 a megawatt hour, much less than it is paying the three solar farms - Royalla, south of Tuggeranong, is getting $186 a megawatt hour.

Mr Corbell said in September that significant weight would be given to economic benefit to the ACT - a criteria  worth 20 per cent of the bid assessment. Projects outside the region would need to score highly in economic benefits to the region to be considered.