News | 21st Nov, 2012

Tilting towards wind energy

21 November 2012
Peter Hannam, The Age

AUSTRALIANS overwhelmingly want more renewable energy over the next five years and half of them want the brands they regularly buy to declare the source of the energy that went into making them.

That's two of the findings in a study across 20 countries commissioned by Vestas Wind Systems, the world's biggest maker of wind turbines, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Almost three-quarters of the 1000 Australians polled prefer to have their energy supplied by renewable sources, and just 5.6 per cent for fossil fuels – almost the reverse of the country's actual energy mix.

But while the study had the support of Vestas, its findings also reveal Australians are less enthusiastic about wind as the renewable energy source of choice.

Almost one in six Australians, for instance, were opposed to having wind turbines ''within visible proximity of their lives'', compared with a one-in-20 ratio globally. Those strongly in favour came in at 13.7 per cent locally versus almost a quarter internationally.

Despite the concerns, wind turbines are expected to continue to expand rapidly because of their relatively cheap cost of power generation.

From about 2500 megawatts of installed capacity now, the industry is likely to erect turbines with a total capacity of 1000 megawatts each year for the rest of the decade, said Ken McAlpine, director of Vestas' policy and government relations.

Several challenges, though, remain. For starters, the government is under pressure from fossil fuel-fired generators to tinker with the renewable energy target, putting at risk $17 billion in potential investment. And New South Wales may follow Victoria in restricting wind turbines to within two kilometres of a house without the consent of the owner.

''There's been a lot of interest from developers of projects in NSW, despite the anti-wind movement there,'' Mr McAlpine said. ''We have a lot of faith that the government will take a balanced approach.''


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