A community investment plan for a new wind farm in New South Wales, Australia “could be the turning point the wind industry has needed for years,” RenewEconomy reports, delivering the share ownership, local economic impact, and community support that have been increasingly available to large solar projects in recent years.
“While community ownership of rooftop solar has famously snowballed, public investment in larger solar farms, such as Canberra’s SolarShare, has been growing steadily, as well,” notes wind power advocate Andrew Bray. “Lower up-front capital costs and relatively simple design requirements have put solar projects within reach of community-based organizations for a number of years.”
Wind farms, by contrast, “are big projects with high up-front capital costs, long lead times in the planning system, and complex design requirements,” he notes. “This might explain why there has been a trickle, rather than a flood, of community projects in Australia.”
Bray points to developer Windlab Systems as a sector leader in community investment, after a project in the southeastern state of Victoria. The Coonooer Bridge Wind Farm “pioneered a financial structure that sees host and neighbouring landholders invest directly,” alongside Windlab and its financing partner, giving 33 local landowners a combined 4% share in the A$20-million project.
The model “creates a vehicle for investors from all across the community to invest alongside the big pension and superannuation funds,” Bray notes. “Opening up this opportunity could change the way we think about the ownership of renewable energy plants in Australia and help drive the financial benefits more directly to the regional towns and communities that host them.”