Australian wind energy capacity doubled over past year

Wind energy capacity has almost doubled in Australia over the last year, representing a milestone for this emerging industry, according to the Australian Wind Energy Association (AusWEA).

By the close of 2004, a total of 380 megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity had been installed nationally, which is significantly higher than the 198 MW installed capacity reached by the end of 2003.

“Wind energy in Australia is now capable of meeting the energy needs of more than all the homes in Canberra, whilst displacing over 1.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, which is the equivalent of taking almost 350,000 cars off the road,” CEO of AusWEA Libby Anthony stated.

However, she added that Australia’s growth potential for new wind energy projects was still enormous.

The emerging Australian wind industry is now beginning to deliver many jobs in regional areas, and despite a small, active minority of wind farm objectors, support for this clean energy source remains high across the country, with most projects receiving little objection throughout the planning approval process.

Approximately 1,350 MW of additional wind energy projects are either currently approved or under construction, with many more in various stages of development. Once installed, these projects are estimated to provide enough electricity to power quarter of a million more homes.

“Australia has some of the most powerful and abundant untapped wind on the planet, and a grid capacity that, with minor adjustments, could potentially accommodate up to 8,000 MW of wind energy,” Ms Anthony continued. “Even if we were just to develop half of this, the regional employment benefits and export opportunities would be enormous.”

Under Australian government’s current Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET), less than half the projects currently undergoing feasibility assessments are now likely to proceed, according to Ms Anthony (see related story).

However, there is strong support for increasing renewable energy targets amongst state governments, which AusWEA believes could see the industry’s full potential realised.

By Jane Kettle

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