New England Wind (NEW) organised a coach tour to Canberra from 7th to 10th November 2013. Twenty-one passengers travelled from New England, with a further seven joining the tour in Canberra. These passengers made up a diverse and enthusiastic group, comprising landholders from across New England, council staff and councillors, state government officers, mature-aged students, NEW Consortium members, sponsors of the tour, members of sustainability groups and other interested parties.
The originally planned tour to observe windfarms had expanded to include other forms of renewable energy and our one day in the field was packed with informative tours of two windfarms, a solar farm and a bioenergy plant, as well as presentations from, and discussions with, farmers who are living with turbines on their properties.
Infigen provided an in-depth tour of Woodlawn Windfarm and Capital Solar Farm (both near Bungendore), allowing access around and inside wind turbines and amongst the rows of solar photovoltaic installations. Tour members were able to experience visual and noise effects of wind turbines from various distances away, as well as from right underneath turbines on what happened to be a day of high wind in the Canberra region. They also learned how turbines are turned on and off, how they automatically reset themselves when necessary, how maintenance is done, what is present at the substation on site and a myriad of other details of windfarm operations.
During this tour and at the solar farm Jane Osborne answered questions from landholders and others about her experiences of living near turbines.
The group then moved on to do a tour of Veolia’s bioreactor at a disused mine site, where some of Sydney’s landfill is now treated and the methane used to produce energy. Veolia staff provided a tour of the landfill site as well as the aquaculture and horticulture research area where water from the site is reused to produce fish and lettuces. Compost from treated landfill will be used to rehabilitate the old mine site tailings ponds adjacent to the mine site.
We moved on to have lunch in the woolshed at “Currandooley” which is the main farm involved in hosting turbines for Capital Windfarm beside Lake George near Bungendore. Hosts Harry and Luke Osborne each gave presentations to the group while lunch was eaten. Luke spoke about fairness principles that could be employed by wind developers in compensating landholders who live near turbines. Harry talked about living with turbines and dealing with contractors during the construction phase. New England landholders amongst the tour group found these presentations, and the discussion afterwards, particularly pertinent to their own situations.
Harry then took the group for a drive to a headland on his farm beside Lake George, where he talked about how farming and grazing operations have continued as normal since turbines were installed, with animals grazing happily underneath turbines. Harry also noted that eagle populations have actually increased around the turbines, due to eagles enjoying hunting above the flicker of turbines.
In the evening, at Canberra Yacht Club, representatives of several Canberra regional sustainability groups, ANU, ACT government, state government and local landholders gathered with our group to present brief accounts of their current projects. Adam Blakester talked about NEW’s work on the community windfarm, as well as giving an overview of other community renewable energy projects in our region.
Much discussion and networking ensued and some good contacts were made for future communications.
Overall, the windfarms tour was deemed successful with passengers providing very positive feedback regarding the usefulness of the tour and the significant learning which resulted.
NEW would like to again thank our Sponsors who made the tour possible and the many people who assisted from the Canberra end to ensure a very worthwhile visit to renewable energy operations in that region.
Video recordings and more photos from the tour will appear on the website soon.