Wind energy group claims billions injected into the economy by wind farms

Adam Marshall MP and Mayor Steve Toms as the first turbine blade arrives at White Rock.

Adam Marshall MP and Mayor Steve Toms as the first turbine blade arrives at White Rock.

Rural communities receive windfalls from wind farms, according to the Australian Wind Alliance.

The wind energy body calculates that across Australia wind farms inject $4 billion into the economy.

In Glen Innes, Mayor Steve Toms said he could already see benefits.

The two wind farms which straddle the council boundary between Glen Innes and Inverell have resulted in construction jobs and permanent jobs, he said.

Glen Innes Severn Council is currently debating how to tax wind turbines. There are legal issues over what category they should fall under – whether agricultural or some other business rate.

It’s reckoned that rates of about $90,000 a year could flow from the Sapphire and White Rock wind farms to Glen Innes council. 

There are also “community funds” which the wind farms pay into to give money to projects in Glen Innes. That could add up to about $300,000, split between Inverell and Glen Innes, though more might go westward because the Sapphire Wind Farm is more in Inverell Shire than Glen Innes Severn.

The ABC recently quoted a local cattle producer, Tim Moses, (who will have 14 Sapphire Wind Farm turbines on his land) as saying: “The royalties help educate my children, help improve the property. It'll give me the flexibility to keep my cattle going through hard times, through droughts."

Mayor Toms reckoned that local businesses had already benefited.

Tourist attraction.

Tourist attraction.

Sapphire Wind Farm is also drawing up plans to take investment from local people. If this happens, dividends would flow back, perhaps to be spent in local shops.

The Wind Farm Alliance’s leader, Andrew Bray, said: “Australia’s 82 operational wind farms are delivering significant financial and social benefits to their host communities.”

“Wind power is making a long-lasting, positive contribution to rural Australia’s social fabric”, he said.

Wind farms do have critics who say that they blight the landscape with ugly towers and that they don’t actually provide much economic benefit because they employ few people.

Four years ago, the Australia Institute did some research on attitudes nationally and concluded that “80 per cent of people polled (said) they do not consider wind turbines to have a negative impact on the landscape. In contrast, public perceptions of fossil fuel-based energy sources are less positive, with 68 per cent and 41 per cent of people respectively considering coal and coal seam gas (methane) to have a negative impact on the landscape.”