The Hume Chapter of Citizens' Climate Lobby hosted a panel discussion on wind farms on Thursday evening at the Goulburn Soldiers Club.
The three guest speakers were Charlie Prell from Crookwell Wind Farm, Gary Poile from Collector Wind Farm, and Ian Lawrence, communications manager with Ratch Australia, which is currently involved in the planning, design and engineering of the Collector Wind Farm project.
The evening began with Charlie Prell speaking about his experiences with the Crookwell Wind Farm project. Mr Prell is one of three residents to live beneath the Crookwell 2 wind turbines and is a long-time advocate for renewable energy. An Upper Lachlan Shire councillor for four years, a regional organiser with the Australian Wind Alliance and co-chair of the steering committee for Farmers for Climate Action, Mr Prell spoke about the lengthy 18-year journey for Crookwell 2 to come to fruition.
The project was first approved back in 2005, in the midst of the millennium drought.
"That made us even more determined," Mr Prell said.
He told the audience the chance for "passive income" was a source of hope and relief for his family, the other land owners involved in the Crookwell 2 project and the community in general.
Mr Prell shared anecdotes on the many positive impacts of the wind farm, including being able to guarantee local full-time jobs on his own farm - regardless of weather or increasingly volatile climate patterns - owing to the financial stability afforded by the wind turbine lease agreement. He reflected on the current drought and the peace of mind in having an off-farm source of income, one that not only benefits his own family, but has far-reaching effects in the wider community.
He also outlined the importance of local councils and government coming on board with renewable energy, saying, "It's up to us as communities to do it better", and "We could be the green centre of Australia".
Next to speak was Ian Lawrence from Ratch Australia. Mr Lawrence shed some light on the logistics and numbers involved in the Collector Wind Farm project, where there is currently approval for 54 wind turbines, capable of generating enough clean energy to power 75,000 to 100,000 homes a year.
He spoke about the serious shortcomings in the power grid and the misunderstandings about simply being able to "plug in" renewables, citing problems with the capacity of the grid to deal with the extra influx of energy generated by renewables and also the lack of infrastructure in more remote locations - which are often the most suitable for renewables - where access to the grid in itself is an issue.
He also joked that there were probably only "three people in the country who genuinely understand the grid." He did, however, explain the inevitability of renewable energy - not only because of the growing climate change emergency, but because of Australia's aging coal plants that are reaching the end of their operating lives - stating, "Something is going to have to replace these things."
Mr Lawrence also reiterated Mr Prell's point of the importance of council and government action, saying, "There needs to be a political will to do this."
Last to speak for the evening was Gary Poile, whose family farm will be home to several turbines under the Collector Wind Farm project. Mr Poile gave insight into some of the community opposition he and others faced during the planning and development process, and also reiterated Mr Prell's argument of financial security for farmers and the benefits for the community, citing an approximately $240,000 per annum income stream to be established into a trust for the Collector community.
"It's meant my son can actually come back to the farm and work for me," he said of his own personal experience,
Mr Poile wants the community and local government to see the inherent value in renewable energy, explaining that it not only generates funding for individuals and community groups, but also has the potential to halve electricity bills in the district and has marketability and tourism prospects. He has his sights firmly set on Collector becoming not just carbon neutral but carbon positive and its citizens being able to one day say, "We're the renewable capital of NSW."
When reflecting on his volunteer duties with the RFS and SES, Mr Poile underlined the importance of being prepared in an emergency and how that translates to the climate change emergency.
"You have to have a plan," he said.
He believes, as do the other panel members and the members of Citizens' Climate Lobby, that plan involves renewable energy.
Citizens' Climate Lobby, Hume, will be hosting another event on November 7 at the Goulburn Soldiers Club at 7pm. They have managed to secure guest speaker, Professor Mark Howden, a global expert on climate change, Director of the Climate Change Institute of ANU and Vice Chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Entry to the event is free.
- Emma Breeze is a member of the Hume chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby.