Community engagement

Community engagement is a vital element needed to ensure the success of a wind project. Building and maintaining relationships with the communities where wind farms are proposed and/or operating makes it easier to address and work through any issues which might arise during the project.

According to Taylor Henderson from DOW Solar, the timing of community engagement is critical to achieving community support and an understanding of the wind project by providing the community with regular updates is critical to a project’s long-term success.

“Most frequent resistance to wind projects is encountered when the community is not informed, has no understanding of the process and do not understand the benefits derived from the project,” Mr Henderson said.

Article continues below…

Strategies to engage communities include:

  • Providing information through newsletters, websites, media and other forums to create awareness about projects
  • Receiving input or feedback from the community through community reference or stakeholder groups.

David Clarke, Senior Manager of Community Relations at ACCIONA Energy, said that the most important aspect of community engagement is becoming an active member of the community.

“We place a high emphasis on providing sponsorship to local community groups and organisations, being present at community events, getting involved where we can; then once our wind farms are operational, we have community benefits funds that can benefit that local community through the operations phase,” Mr Clarke said.

Effective investment strategy

The right strategies to invest in a project can be achieved by having defined processes for how projects are located, and how decisions can be made about investing in them.

During the recent development and construction of the Kennedy Wind Farm in Northern Queensland, Windlab Systems outlined four broadly important aspects that need to be considered when choosing a site: wind, grid, planning and availability of land tenure.

“In the case of Kennedy we were able to map the resource for the whole country and identified quite some time ago that there was a strong resource in North Queensland where Kennedy Wind Farm is now, which really allowed us to bring forward our investment in the project,” said Luke Osborne, Regional Director Australia, Windlab Systems.

Government initiatives

According to Australian Energy Projections to 2034, a recent report from the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE), the percentage of electricity generated in Australia from wind power is expected to rise to at least 14 per cent in coming years.

“There's a variety of policies and initiatives that have been put in place by the Federal Government and we would expect based on our projections that wind will have a substantial impact in driving the expansion of renewable energy in Australia,” said Quentin Grafton, Executive Director and Chief Economist, BREE.

“We will also see wind becoming a much more important resource in terms of electricity generation than it is today.”

Richard Mackie, General Manager Australia/South Africa, Windlab Systems, said “Regulations such as the Renewable Energy Target create a demand for wind farms and renewable energy in general, and they have a very big effect on the demand for turbines and the market.”

Social and environmental sustainability

Taylor Henderson from DOW Solar said that it is critical to balance leadership in environmental responsibility with the costs of a project in order to achieve the goal of delivering wind energy at a cost which will be competitive with that of traditional energy generation.

Environmental sustainability requires consideration of many factors impacting a project, including feasibility, the cost of construction and timeliness of project completion.

Strategies to consider the impact on the environment of a wind project include:

  • An environmental assessment of a project site prior to making a final site selection
  • Reducing the number of vehicles needed to transport turbine components on-site.

EcoGeneration’s Wind Map of Australia 2012 shows the locations and details of all under construction and completed wind energy projects in the country.

Order a copy of the Wind Map via the EcoGeneration online shop – click here.