Wind power in Australia

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Early morning at the 239 MW Lake Bonney Wind Farm.

Wind power in Australia is a mode of production of renewable energy in Australia. Wind power is a rapidly expanding mode of renewable energy production in Australia with an average annual rate of growth in installed capacity of 35% over the five years up to 2011. As at 2015, there were 4187 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, with another 15284 MW either being planned or under construction.[1] In the year to October 2015, wind power accounted for 4.9% of Australia's total electricity demand and 33.7% of total renewable energy supply.[2] As at October 2015, there were 76 wind farms in Australia, most of which had turbines of from 1.5 to 3 MW.

South Australia has close to half of Australia's wind power capacity,[3] accounting for almost 20% of that state's electricity needs as of October 2010. By the end of 2011 wind power in South Australia reached 26% of the State's electricity generation, edging out coal-fired power for the first time. At that stage South Australia, with only 7.2% of Australia's population, had 54% of Australia's installed wind capacity.

Since coming into office in September 2013, the Abbott government has waged a war on wind power by destroying investment confidence, and then dismantling policies that supported renewable energy. The confidence war began in opposition.[4]

Victoria also has a substantial system, with about a quarter of the Australia's capacity, and projects under construction forecast to more than double that capacity by the end of 2013. In August 2015, the Victorian government announced financial backing for new wind farms as part of a push to encourage renewable energy in the state, which was expected to bring forward the building of a modest 100 MW of new wind energy in the state, worth $200 million in investment. The government expected that there were about 2400 MW worth of Victorian projects that had been approved but were yet to be built.[5] The announcement follows a rocky 18 months for the industry that has seen investment in new projects largely dry up across Australia. The collapse was largely a result of uncertainty created by the federal government's moves to cut the national renewable energy target and general publicly hostile. The Victorian initiative is one of a number of initiatives launched by state and territories to encourage more clean power, such as the Australian Capital Territory,[6] which has a target for 90% of its electricity supply to come from renewables by 2020 and has held auctions to buy power from new wind and solar projects.


The information centre near the base of one of the towers at Wattle Point Wind Farm

Australia has excellent wind resources by world standards.[7][8] The southern coastline lies in the roaring forties and hundreds of sites have average wind speeds above 8 or even 9 m/s at 50 m above ground (the hub height of a modern wind generator). The southwest of Western Australia, southern South Australia, western Victoria, northern Tasmania and elevated areas of New South Wales and Queensland have good wind resources. Several states engaged in systematic wind speed monitoring in the 1980s and 1990s, the results of which are publicly available.[9] Australian wind farms produce on average capacity factors of 30–35%, making wind an attractive option.[10]

As of October 2010, wind power accounted for approximately 5 TWh out of a total of 251 TWh of electricity used per year,[11] enough electricity to power more than 700,000 homes,[12] and amounting to about two percent of Australia's total electricity consumption.[11] This came from 52 operating wind farms with greater than 100 kW capacity, consisting of a total of 1,052 turbines. This figure represented approximately a 30% increase in wind power generation each year over the previous decade, or a total increase of more than 1,000% over that time. The total installed capacity at October 2010 was 1,880 MW (1.88 GW), counting only projects over 100 kW, with a further 1,043 MW under construction.[12]

Wind farms[edit]

As of December 2013, there were 68 wind farms of greater than 100 kW capacity operating in Australia.[13] As at the end of 2015 there were 77 wind farms in Australia, totalling 4,187 MW in capacity.

The largest wind farm is Macarthur Wind Farm in Victoria, which opened in January 2013, with a capacity of 420 MW.[13]

By generating capacity, the ten largest wind farms in Australia are:

No. Project State Capacity (MW)
1 Macarthur Wind Farm Victoria 420
2 Snowtown Wind Farm South Australia 369
3 Hallett Wind Farm South Australia 351
4 Lake Bonney Wind Farm South Australia 240
5 Collgar Wind Farm[14] Western Australia 206
6 Portland Wind Farm Victoria 195
7 Waubra Wind Farm Victoria 192
8 Musselroe Wind Farm Tasmania 168
9 Capital Wind Farm New South Wales 141
10 Woolnorth Wind Farm Tasmania 140

Australia's first commercial wind farm, Salmon Beach Wind Farm near Esperance in Western Australia operated for 15 years from 1987, but was decommissioned due to urban encroachment; it has been replaced by Ten Mile Lagoon Wind Farm and Nine Mile Beach Wind Farm.

Wind power by state[edit]

A full listing of all the wind farms in Australia, can be found in List of wind farms in Australia. Relevant state articles are:

Installed capacity by state

The following figures are based on capacity as at the end of 2015.[15]

# State /


Wind Power Capacity[15] Proposed[15]
Installed capacity Under construction
Projects Turbines Total MW Penetration (%)[13][15] Projects Total MW
17 651 1,475 34 (end 2015) 1 105.6
17 596 1,230 5 (end 2013) 2 259.8
12 361 668 1 (end 2013)
21 308 491 8 (end 2013)
7 124 310 5 (end 2013)
2 22 12 0
1 2 1
0 0 0
0 0 0
77 2,064 4,187 3 365.4

Competitiveness of wind power[edit]

Making comparisons between wind and other sources of energy can be difficult because of the cost profiles associated with wind developments. The vast majority of the costs associated with wind developments are upfront capital costs. The operating costs are relatively low, with each additional unit of wind power costing very little to produce. By comparison, conventional gas and coal developments have large capital costs, as well as significant operating costs. The difference in cost profiles creates difficulties when trying to compare the cost of alternative energy sources.[16]

Despite these complexities, most of the data indicate that wind energy is one of the most cost efficient sources of renewable energy but approximately two times the cost of coal generated power in 2006.[16] When the costs associated with pollution are factored in it was competitive with coal- and gas-fired power stations even then.[16] By 2014, wind had the lowest levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of any power source in Australia.[17]

A 2012 study by SKM on the economic benefits of wind farms in Australia found that, for every 50 MW in capacity, a wind farm delivered the following benefits:

  • direct employment of up to 48 construction workers, with each worker spending approximately $25,000 in the local area in shops, restaurants, hotels and other services – a total of up to $1.2 million
  • direct employment of around five staff – a total annual input of $125,000 spent in the local economy
  • indirect employment during the construction phase of approximately 160 people locally, 504 state jobs and 795 nationwide jobs
  • up to $250,000 per year for farmers in land rental income and $80,000 on community projects each year.[18]

Environmental impact[edit]

Wind power is one of the most environmentally friendly sources of renewable energy

Australia is the fifth highest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases with 25.8 tonne CO2-e per person annually, ranking first of the industrialized countries, and ranks sixteenth of all countries in total country emissions with 495 Mt CO2-e per annum.[19] It is one of the major exporters of coal, the burning of which releases CO2 into the atmosphere. It is also one of the countries most at risk from climate change according to the Stern report. This is partially because of the size of its agriculture sector and long coastline.

A wind farm, when installed on agricultural land, has one of the lowest environmental impacts of all energy sources:[20]

  • It occupies less land area per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity generated than any other energy conversion system, apart from rooftop solar energy, and is compatible with grazing and crops.
  • It generates the energy used in its construction in just 3 months of operation, yet its operational lifetime is 20–25 years.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution produced by its construction are small and declining. There is very little emission or pollution produced by its operation.
  • In substituting for base-load (mostly coal power) in mainland Australia, wind power produces a net decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
  • Modern wind turbines are almost silent and rotate so slowly (in terms of revolutions per minute) that they are rarely a hazard to birds.[20]

Landscape and heritage issues may be a significant issue for certain wind farms. However, these are minimal when compared with the Environmental effects of coal. However, when appropriate planning procedures are followed, the heritage and landscape risks should be minimal. Some people may still object to wind farms, perhaps on the grounds of aesthetics, but their concerns should be weighed against the need to address the threats posed by climate change and the opinions of the broader community.[16]

Overseas experience has shown that community consultation and direct involvement of the general public in wind farm projects has helped to increase community approval.[21] Some wind farms become tourist attractions.[22]

The Garnaut Climate Change Review, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the Mandatory Renewable energy Target announced by the Australian Government involve a reduction in Australian greenhouse gas emissions. Australia is the highest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita in the developed world[23][24] and wind power is well placed to grow and deliver greenhouse gas emission cuts on a cost competitive basis. A typical 50-megawatt (MW) wind farm in Australia can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 65,000 and 115,000 tonnes a year.[25]

Based on the 2010 figures for electricity production of 5 TWh nationally, it is estimated that wind power saved Australia 5,100,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions in that year. In relative terms, that is calculated to be the equivalent of removing 1,133,000 cars from the nation's roads.[26]

Politics of wind power[edit]

From 2001 to early 2006, the main driving force for the establishment of wind farms in Australia was the Government's Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET).[27][28] However, by mid-2006, sufficient renewable energy had been installed or was under construction to meet the small MRET target for 2010. Also, in 2006, several Federal Government Ministers spoke out against a number of wind farm proposals.[28]

Dr Mark Diesendorf has suggested that the Australian Government has tried to stop the development of wind power, the lowest-cost, new, renewable electricity source, until such time as coal-fired power stations with CO2 capture and sequestration and possibly nuclear power stations are available. However, "clean coal" technologies may not be commercially available for at least 20 years. Furthermore, to bring down the high cost of nuclear power to a level where it could compete with wind power would require a new generation of nuclear power stations that is still on the drawing board, which could take at least 15 years.[28]

In November 2007 the Rudd (Labor) government was elected in Australia, replacing the Howard (Liberal/National Coalition) government. The new government ratified Australia's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, promised a target of 20% renewable power by 2020 and to do more to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, several new wind power projects have been proposed in anticipation of an expanded MRET.

In July 2011 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Four Corners program explored health concerns connected with Australian wind farms in its "Against the Wind" report.

Since coming into office in September 2013, the Abbott (Coalition) government has waged a war on wind power by destroying investment confidence, and then dismantling policies that supported renewable energy. The confidence war began in opposition.[4]

Major wind power companies[edit]

Meridian Energy[edit]

Meridian Energy is a New Zealand state-owned enterprise and New Zealand's largest electricity generator. It specialises in renewable energy, namely hydroelectricity and windpower, and has 2353 MW of hydroelectric generation and 357 MW of wind generation in New Zealand. It has in recent years expanded into Australia, and its Australian operations are currently focused on windpower. Projects completed or currently being developed include:

Pacific Hydro[edit]

Pacific Hydro is an Australian company that specialises in electricity generation using renewable energy. Its focus is on hydroelectricity and windpower. Wind power stations owned by Pacific Hydro include:

Hydro Tasmania[edit]

Hydro Tasmania is based in Tasmania and has three wind farms operating in Australia: Woolnorth Wind Farm in northwest Tasmania, Musselroe Wind Farm in the northeast of Tasmania and Cathedral Rocks Wind Farm in South Australia.


Suzlon Energy Australia Pty. Ltd. (SEA), is based in Melbourne, and is a subsidiary of Suzlon Energy, an Indian multinational based in Pune, India.[29] Suzlon will install 45 units of its S88 – 2.1-megawatt wind turbines for AGL at the Hallett Wind Farm to be located on the Brown Hill Range, which is situated approximately 220 kilometers north of Adelaide.[30]


TrustPower is a New Zealand-based renewable electricity generator. It operates a number of hydroelectric schemes in New Zealand and several wind farms in New Zealand and Australia. Wind farms in Australia include Snowtown and the proposed Myponga, both in South Australia.

Wind Prospect[edit]

Wind Prospect undertakes all aspects of wind energy development, including design, construction, operation and commercial services, with offices in the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and China. With over 18 years of successful development within the industry, the Wind Prospect Group has been involved in over 2,500 MW of approved wind farms, including onshore and offshore projects, in terms of development, construction, operations and commercial services, and has a further 4000 MW in the early phase of development. The company’s civil, electrical and mechanical engineers have been involved in the commissioning of over 50 wind farms around the world.

Wind Prospect’s development offices in Australia are in Adelaide, Newcastle, Brisbane and Melbourne. Wind Prospect Pty Ltd (WPPL) is the most successful developer in Australia, having achieved planning approval for 10 wind farms totalling over 860 MW, of which 565 MW is operating or under construction. Two recent successes in South Australia are the North Brown Hill Wind Farm (132.3 MW) and The Bluff Range Wind Farm (52.1 MW), both approximately 270 km north east of Adelaide, which are Wind Prospect’s sixth and seventh wind farm developments respectively to progress to construction in South Australia. More projects in this region have received planning approval and are expected to proceed to construction.


Windlab Systems is an Australian company with operations in the USA, Canada and South Africa. It was established in 2003 as a CSIRO spin-off. The company uses self developed technologies, Windscape which is based on CSIRO’s atmospheric modelling technology and advanced wind monitoring tools, to undertake a program of site identification, site validation and wind farm development. Approximately 1,500 MW of projects in Australia have used Windlab intellectual property for site identification purposes. The company co-developed the Oakland's Hill (67 MW) wind farm and the Collgar Wind Farm (206 MW). Windlab has since become a full wind farm developer and takes projects to the point of construction.[31]

Infigen Energy[edit]

Infigen Energy is a developer, owner and operator of renewable generation, specifically wind and solar power within Australia and the United States. Its head office is in Sydney. The company has developed several wind farms particularly in South Australia and New South Wales with further proposed wind farms in Western Australia and Victoria.

International comparisons[edit]

Australia's total wind generation capacity of 1,880 MW in 2010[12] was considerably lower in comparison to many other developed and developing nations, ranking 15th globally behind leaders such as China with 44,733 MW, the US with 40,180 MW, Germany with 27,215 MW, Spain with 20,676 MW, and India with 13,066 MW.[32]

In terms of installed capacity per head of population, Australia ranked 18th in the world in 2010, with 0.086 kW per person. This was only around one eighth of world leader Denmark, which had 0.675 kW per person, while other top countries were Spain with 0.442 kW per person, Portugal with 0.344 kW per person, and Germany with 0.334 kW per person. The top two countries in terms of total capacity, China and the US, only ranked 27th and 9th in terms of capacity per head, with 0.033 kW per person and 0.128 kW per person respectively.[32]

While Australia produced almost 2% of its electricity from wind power,[26] in comparison to other countries it again lagged well behind world leaders in 2010. Again Denmark topped this list, accounting for approximately 19% of electricity production, with Portugal at 18%, Spain at 16%, and Germany at 9%. Global leaders in terms of total capacity, China and the US, had contributions as a percentage of total electricity supply closer to that of Australia, with 1.2% and 2% respectively.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ IEA Wind Annual Report 2011. Boulder, Colorado, United States: IEA Wind. 2012. p. 186. ISBN 0-9786383-6-0. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Energy Council "Clean Energy Australia Report 2011" Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  3. ^ International Energy Agency (2009).IEA Wind Energy: Annual Report 2008 pp. 79-82.
  4. ^ a b It's not too late for Malcolm Turnbull to wind up Tony Abbott's war on wind farms
  5. ^ Victorian government to back new wind farms as part of renewables plan
  6. ^ ACT to hold a new auction this year to fund more wind farms
  7. ^ Clean Energy Council (2012). "Wind Energy". CEC. Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  8. ^ Wind Atlas for Australia 2008
  9. ^ A.W. Blakers, (2000). "Solar and Wind Electricity in Australia" (PDF). Australian Journal of Environmental Management 7: 223–36. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2007-08-30. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  10. ^ National code for wind farms: A discussion paper
  11. ^ a b "Clean Energy Australia 2010 (Report)" (PDF). Official site. Clean Energy Council. p. 5. Retrieved 12 June 2011.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  12. ^ a b c "Clean Energy Australia 2010 (Report): Wind Power" (PDF). Official site. Clean Energy Council. pp. 49–53. Retrieved 12 June 2011.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  13. ^ a b c "Clean Energy Australia Report 2013"
  14. ^ Collgar Wind Warm: "Collgar March 2012 - Operational", retrieved 11 December 2012
  15. ^ a b c d Clean Energy Australia: Report 2015. Clean Energy Council. 2016. 
  16. ^ a b c d The Australia Institute (2006).Wind Farms The facts and the fallacies Discussion Paper Number 91, October, ISSN 1322-5421
  17. ^ Clean Energy Council (2014), Wind energy Wind energy in Australia: 2014 in focus
  18. ^
  19. ^ World Resources Institute
  20. ^ a b Why Australia needs wind power
  21. ^ The world's leader in Wind Power
  22. ^ Ten Mile Lagoon Wind Farm
  23. ^ Global Warming: The Facts
  24. ^ Australia tops greenhouse pollution index
  25. ^ National code for wind farms
  26. ^ a b "Technologies: Wind: Wind Energy – how it works". Official website. Clean Energy Council. 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  27. ^ Lovegrove, Keith. Election 2004: The Government’s non policy on energy Australian Review of Public Affairs, 10 September 2004.
  28. ^ a b c Diesendorf, Mark (2007). Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy, UNSW Press, p. 107.
  29. ^ About Suzlon
  30. ^ Suzlon enters Australian market
  31. ^
  32. ^ a b c "World Wind Energy Report 2010" (PDF). Report. World Wind Energy Association. February 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 

External links[edit]