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Simon Corbell reveals wind farm auction winners to supply third of Canberra's electricity needs

Three wind farms in Victoria and South Australia have won 20-year deals with the ACT government to supply a third of Canberra's electricity needs within two years.

The deals are worth a total of $68 million a year to the three companies and will cost Canberra households an average $93 extra a year on their power bills at the peak in 2020. 

The three wind farms have 200 megawatts of capacity. This is on top of the 44 megawatts of household rooftop solar and the 40 megawatts of large-scale solar already funded in the ACT's ambitious push to meet 90 per cent of the city's electricity needs from renewables by 2020.

One of the three solar farms, planned for Uriarra, is stuck in planning nearly two years after it was chosen at auction. A decision is expected in March.

The wind farms would mean a 580,000-tonne reduction in the city's carbon emissions each year, the equivalent of taking 157,000 cars off the road, Environment Minister Simon Corbell, who will announce the auction outcome on Friday, said.

The three wind farms were among 18 which bid for a share of the ACT government funding, many of them closer to home. The decision leaves wind farms in Collector, Crookwell, Bungendore and other areas around the city facing an uncertain future.


However, the winning projects would deliver substantial economic spin-offs to the territory, Mr Corbell said.

The biggest is a 100MW wind farm – owned by French company Neoen – in Hornsdale, 90 kilometres from Port Augusta in South Australia. Neoen'sAsia-Pacific business headquarters will be in Canberra as part of the deal.

The second is an 80.5 megawatt wind farm being developed by British-based RES Australia in Ararat, near Ballarat in Victoria. It will use Canberra company Windlab to manage the farm from a new "operations hub" in Canberra.

Windlab, a spin-off from the CSIRO, was the third successful company in the auction, winning funding for a smaller farm – 19.4 megawatts – near Bendigo. The project is jointly owned by local farmers.

The Windlab project will be the first under way, operating within a year and paid $81.50 for each megawatt hour of electricity it produces; an expected 81,000 megawatt hours a year.

The Hornsdale wind farm, which will be paid $92 a megawatt hour for 414,000 hours a year, will be operational by February 2017. The Ararat wind farm will be paid $87 a megawatt hour for 271,000 hours a year.

The power from Canberra's solar farms is twice as expensive. The Royalla solar farm, which was hooked up to the grid in September, is being paid $186 a megawatt hour and the other two a similar price.

The three wind farms have planning approval so will not face the same hurdles as Uriarra.

Mr Corbell said they also had strong community support.

The price was "extremely affordable", he said, and the three projects would deliver exceptional economic benefits to the city.

That included a new renewables trades training centre at the Canberra Institute of Technology with 30 to 40 students; Neoen's regional headquarters and Windlab's "global operations hub", with at least 11 Canberra jobs in managing the wind farms.

The Canberra region wind farms that missed out would be able to bid in later auctions, Mr Corbell said.

The three wind farms would supply 33 per cent of the city's renewable electricity, or sufficient to power 107,000 Canberra homes, which is more than was anticipated when the auction began. 

"It's more than any other jurisdiction in the country," he said. "Thirty-three per cent is a massive step change in the delivery of carbon-free energy . . . This means we are well on track to meet our 90 per cent renewable energy target."

Once that target is reached, the renewable energy is estimated to add $243 a year to the average household electricity bill all up.

Next up is an auction for 50MW of new-generation solar, which is expected this year, then the "waste to energy" project, followed by another wind auction, probably in 2016. 

Asked about the impasse over Uriarra, which has been stuck in planning since early last year, Mr Corbell said he was "very hopeful" there would be a resolution.

"Every indication to date to me is that we will see resolution and certainty as to whether or not this project will proceed," he said.

Asked what would happen if it didn't proceed, Mr Corbell said he would have to consider proponent Elementus Energy's obligations under the feed-in tariff entitlement it had been awarded at the auction.