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Wind firms welcome ACT government calling a second auction

Wind-farm companies are eagerly awaiting detail from the ACT government on its new wind auction in the hope of giving new life to projects around Canberra and further afield.

Project director for Union Fenosa's planned Crookwell wind farm Shaq Mohajerani said the auction was good news, but the company would wait for details before deciding whether to put forward the Crookwell project or others. Union Fenosa had three wind farms in Victoria, as well as the Crookwell 2 project in NSW which already had development approval, and had another two in NSW in the approval process.

Canberra's first auction had been largely driven by price and it might be that Union Fenosa put forward its Victorian projects, in windier sites, rather than its Crookwell project, he said.

In its first wind auction, the government signed 20-year deals with two wind farms near Bendigo in Victoria and one in South Australia, rejecting bids from the Canberra region. The successful bidders are being paid prices from $81.50 a megawatt hour to $92 a megawatt hour, a price described by many as very low.

The auction gave weighting to economic spin-offs to the Canberra region, but rather than siting their wind farms here, the winning projects are putting their headquarters in Canberra and funding renewable-energy courses at the Canberra Institute of Technology and the Australian National University.

Environment Minister Simon Corbell announced last month that a second auction for another 200 megawatts of wind capacity would be held this year, brought forward to take advantage of the competitive market. Mr Corbell is yet to announce details, but has indicated the second auction will be broadly similar to the first – with a similar capacity to be funded and a similar requirement to bring economic benefits to Canberra.

The company behind the Collector wind farm, which has approval for 55 turbines, is Ratch Australia. Project director Anthony Yeates said the project had development approval and grid connection approval. He was yet to see details of the second auction, but was certainly interested, he said. Collector is Ratch's only NSW project.

The Capital 2 wind farm near Bungendore is being developed by Infigen, whose investor relations manager Richard Farrell said he, too, would look for the weightings given to price and local benefits before deciding which of the company's projects to put forward.

Infigen had development approval for 1200 megawatts of capacity over a number of projects around the country. They included 300 megawatts in NSW – with wind farms ready to go at Bodangora, near Wellington, and Flyers Creek, near Orange, as well as Capital 2.

Infigen had focused strongly on good local content and benefits for the region in its last bid, while others had benefited from putting forward projects from areas with stronger wind resources and so were able to undercut on price.

Whether or not Capital 2 was part of its bid for the ACT's wind auction, he expected the project to go ahead given the federal agreement on a renewable energy target. The new target would allow the development of 5000 to 6000 megawatts of wind capacity, with Capital 2 well position to supply a slice of that, he said.

Source: The Canberra Times

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