In Armidale Town Hall seventy residents gathered on 1st March to consider the merits of a community-owned wind farm for the New England region. The New England region has good wind resources and good access to transmission lines.
Over 90% of NSW electricity is produced from coal, and the development of wind farms is seen as an important contribution to meeting the Federal Government 's Renewable Energy Target which requires that 20 per cent of Australia's electricity be produced from renewable energy sources by 2020.
"The overwhelming response was supportive," said Bar Finch of Sustainable Living Armidale who facilitated the first Community Forum. "A show of hands at the end of the Forum indicated nearly everyone was willing to consider membership of a new organisation charged with creating the wind farm. And many also put up their hand to say they might invest in a community wind farm."
"Local electricity generation was a strong priority identified by the community', said Adam Blakester, Coordinator of New England Wind. "Their view was that a community wind farm would need to contribute towards a sub-grid for the New England which gave us more control and security over our own electricity ~ both its cost and its reliability."
More community forums are planned at the Uralla Community Centre at 6pm on Wednesday 9 March and Kyabra at 10am on 23 March.
A community survey of residents has been commissioned which local residents and businesses are encouraged to fill out to help assess the merits, issues and support for a community-owned wind farm. The NSW Government's New England Renewable Energy Precinct initiated funding for this survey and a study into community-owned power, matched by local organisations and the NSW Office of Fair Trading.
While community owned wind farms are relatively new in Australia, they have become popular across Europe and in the USA. In Denmark 75% of wind power is produced by turbines owned by local associations and individuals.
A New England community owned wind farm would be the first in NSW, the 3rd in Australia.
The Hepburn Wind project near Daylesford in Victoria is currently under construction. The Denmark Community Windfarm in Western Australia initiated in 2003 and slowly progressing to construction phase. The Mount Barker wind farm, also in the south western corner of Western Australia, is currently under construction and is 70 per cent owned by the great southern community.