Hepburn Wind farm inspiring communities to grow renewables

Hepburn Wind is becoming a tourist destination for communities who are embarking on their own renewable energy projects.

Members of the Geelong Sustainability Group have visited Australia’s first community-owned wind farm this weekend on a fact finding mission on community energy.

The group is meeting with Hepburn Wind representatives to find our how Geelong community members can follow in the footsteps of the Daylesford/Hepburn Springs and build their own renewable energy project.

“We organised the trip to Hepburn Wind to learn more about how the Daylesford and Hepburn community set up this extraordinary community energy project,” said Dan Cowdell, president of the Geelong Sustainability Group.

“Over the past 12 months the Geelong Sustainability Group has been looking into a number of different community energy models, and looking for the best way to create similar community owned renewable energy projects in Geelong.”

Geelong Sustainability Group President Dan Cowdell says leadership on wind energy is something the Geelong-region and Daylesford/Hepburn Springs have in common.

“While Daylesford and Hepburn Springs is home to Australia’s first community-owned wind farm, it was our region that hosted the state’s first wind turbine. The Breamlea wind turbine has been generating clean electricity since 1987.”

“While an early leader on wind, it’s an under utilised renewable resource in the Geelong region, and stands out as a good opportunity for a community project.”

Geelong Sustainability Group has installed a crowdfunded solar system at South Geelong Primary School. It is now exploring options for a scaled-up community energy project.

Member of Geelong Sustainability Group’s community renewables taskforce, Vicky Grosser said:

“We’re keen to hear about how the local community was engaged and included in the project from early days. Participation and local ownership is important to the Geelong community,” said Vicky Grosser.

“This will be a key focus for us over the next year to bring in diverse community involvement.”

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Friends of the Earth’s Yes 2 Renewables campaign also attended the tour and say state government support will be needed to help communities leading the transition to 100% renewables:

“The Andrews government has taken some positive first steps by release a guide to community energy projects,” said Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy spokesperson.

“The best thing the Andrews government can do to grow renewables now is set ambitious Victorian Renewable Energy Targets.”

“With communities such as Newstead and Yackandandah aiming for 100 percent, a respectable Victorian target will put the state on a path to 100 percent renewables.”

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Taryn Lane of Hepburn Wind and the community energy advocate Embark flagged the need for the Victorian government to deliver on its commitment to allow community wind farms in designated “no-go zones” (a hang-over from the Baillieu era).

These changes are crucial for communities to play their role in achieving ambitious Victorian Renewable Energy Targets:

“Communities around the state are still waiting to have VC82 amended to unlock high wind areas for development,” said Taryn Lane.

“We hope to see action from the Planning Minister Richard Wynne in the coming months to give communities back the choice of what technology best suits their needs.”

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