Hepburn Wind will pays its members a financial return for the first time since the community-owned wind farm began operations five years ago.
The two-turbine operation went through a turbulent period under the Abbott government, which famously banned the Clean Energy Finance Corporation from investment in wind farms – a ban overturned shortly after by incoming Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who promised stability for the sector.
The price per megawatt hour paid to Hepburn Wind has since more than doubled, from $63 to over $120.
“We effectively saw a stalling of the entire industry and now we’re seeing it jump back into gear,” community manager Taryn Lane said.
“For Hepburn Wind distinctly we’re very small which means we’re very flexible so we could scale down to a skeleton operation but sadly we couldn’t give our members a return.”
The first financial return will be paid to Hepburn Wind’s 2007 members after June this year. The exact amount is yet to be decided.
Ms Lane said a short term zero emissions target was “absolutely doable” for Hepburn Shire.
Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions, which will also be showcased at the National Community Energy Congress this month, has revised its mandate for the city to be zero emissions by 2020 and will instead focus on climate change resilience within the community.
“What we’re seeing is a ground swelling of that movement of zero net emissions and it’s coming from smaller areas and shires.
“For the Hepburn Shire it is absolutely doable within quite a short timeframe because of the population scale and the availability of natural resources. The future for Ballarat is going to be very interesting because there’s going to be a lot of wind farm development and those wind farms will be generating a lot of the local energy use so I think anything is possible for Ballarat.”
Last year Hepburn Wind installed an electric car power station at Daylesford and is looking to reboot the historic micro-hydro station at Lake Daylesford.