Billionaire Andrew Forrest to Build Biggest Wind Farm in New South Wales

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‘The time for talk is over: we are investing right now in Australia’s green energy transition,’ Forrest said.

Squadron Energy, Australia’s leading renewable energy company owned by mining magnate Andrew Forrest, has begun building the largest wind farm in New South Wales (NSW).

The Uungula wind farm, which features 69 wind turbines, is expected to create more than 260 jobs and pump about $40 million (US$26.85 million) into the local economy, the company announced on Jan. 11.

Described as a landmark milestone for renewable energy transition in Australia, the ambitious project is expected to add 14 gigawatts of new capacity and generate sufficient electricity for the equivalent of six million homes.

The wind farm would be situated near Wellington within the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone and has an approved connection to the existing transmission grid.

Mr. Forrest called the project “a positive force for regional communities,” adding that the area near Wellington would be “at the forefront of the green energy transition.”

“The time for talk is over: we are investing right now in Australia’s green energy transition and creating jobs and economic development for regional Australia,” he said.

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“No longer will we have to rely on expensive, volatile, planet-destroying fuels. We will have secure and inexpensive energy from a huge new industry for Australia.”

Fortescue Metals chairman Andrew Forrest during a visit to the Christmas Creek mine site in The Pilbara, Western Australia on April 15, 2021. (AAP Image/Pool, Justin Benson-Cooper)
Fortescue Metals chairman Andrew Forrest during a visit to the Christmas Creek mine site in The Pilbara, Western Australia on April 15, 2021. (AAP Image/Pool, Justin Benson-Cooper)
Further, the billionaire told the ABC said that the 14 gigawatts is “one third of what Australia needs to reach its renewable energy target we’re all cheering for and so this comes in and buttresses that.”

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen has welcomed the project.

“These projects are further proof renewable energy investors are getting on with the job, capitalising on Australia’s huge renewable potential, and helping transform our energy grid for the 21st century,” he said.

He argued that renewable energy and storage is “the cheapest form of energy” and provides “crucial reliability” as coal fired power stations exit the system.

In a bid to finance and develop its development pipeline, Squadron Energy has also coined a $2.75 billion strategic alliance with turbine manufacturer GE Vernova.

GE Vernova will provide Squadron Energy with $1 billion worth of wind turbines and engineering, procurement and construction services.

“With global demand accelerating, it is essential for Australia to embrace strategic supply chain initiatives to provide certainty in the rollout of renewable energy,” said GE Vernova Wind segment leader Vic Abate.

Environmental Risks Of Wind Farms

While wind energy has been touted as a clean source of energy, some experts have voiced concerns about the damaging impact of wind turbines on the ecosystem, such as threatening birds that fly within their vicinity, harming ocean life due to noise pollution, or affecting agricultural practices and the growth of nearby plants.

Professor Emeritus Wade Allison, an Oxford University mathematician and physicist, said wind power has been historically and scientifically unreliable, and that massive solar and wind farms” are built “to the detriment of other creatures.”

In a 2023 report (pdf), he argued that the political enthusiasm and the investor hype are not backed by evidence, even for offshore wind farms.

“Developments are made regardless of the damage wrought,” he wrote in the paper published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

“Hydro-electric schemes, enormous turbines and square miles of solar panels are constructed, despite being unreliable and ineffective; even unnecessary.”

According to a 2018 study, wind power can alter the atmospheric boundary layer and create a warming effect.

“We find that generating today’s U.S. electricity demand with wind power would warm Continental U.S. surface temperatures by 0.24 degrees Celsius,” the study states.

The manufacturing and transportation of wind turbines are also not environmentally friendly.

“The biggest failure of wind energy, oddly enough, is environmental,” Kevon Martis, a certified land use planner and zoning administrator for Lenawee County’s Deerfield Township, told The Center Square in 2022.

“Not only do low-energy density devices like wind turbines have an outsized impact on the landscape due to the sheer mass of the machines and the quantity required, wind energy is a very expensive means of CO2 avoidance.”

Some communities have shown resistance to the building of wind farm projects. In the United States, residents have opposed setting up wind turbines in Lake Erie due to environmental concerns. While in New Jersey, the community demanded that the development of an offshore wind farm be halted due to its risk to marine life.

Is Wind Energy Actually Cheap?

Claims about the affordability of wind power are also disputable as it hasn’t taken into account the costs of keeping gas and coal power plants at stand-by to cover for the lack of output when the winds are slow.

Meanwhile, in Australia, landholders or farmers could be the ones to bear the costs for taking down wind turbines at the end of their lives.

“It costs more money to pull a turbine down than it does to put it up, and that probably makes sense when you think about it. The costs of pulling down a turbine may exceed the revenue you get for 25 years. That’s not a good outcome,” Andrew Dyer, Australia’s energy infrastructure commissioner, told The Epoch Times in 2023.

“In the case of a turbine in Queensland where the bed plate cracked and you couldn’t go near the turbine because it could fall on your head, that cost millions of dollars to take down with robots and explosives. You could be stuck with some big bills.”

Naveen Athrappully and Daniel Y. Teng contributed to this report.

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