Ararat Wind farm delay

Ararat Mayor Paul Hooper, Kevin Erwin Northern Grampians Mayor, Daniel Leahy from RES and Friends of the earth Lee Ewbank have a clear renewable energy message

Ararat Mayor Paul Hooper, Kevin Erwin Northern Grampians Mayor, Daniel Leahy from RES and Friends of the earth Lee Ewbank have a clear renewable energy message

ARARAT - Developers of the $450 million Ararat Wind Farm are growing increasingly frustrated with the Federal Government causing a delay to the start of the 'shovel ready' project.

RES Australia's development manager of the 75 wind turbine project, Daniel Leahy, said a government review into the Renewable Energy Target (RET) has created uncertainty in the market and makes financing difficult.

"It is a significant project for this rural area and Victoria in general," he said.

"It is a rather bizarre situation - we have a wind farm that is shovel ready and good to go, and we've got a local community and local councils who are incredibly supportive of the project and want to see it built now, but we are being hampered by the review process that is going on.

"It is quite frustrating. We do welcome a swift end to the review so we know what our future is for this project."

Mr Leahy said the wind farm grid extends over three shires - Ararat Rural City, Northern Grampians and Pyrenees - with all councils supporting the project.

Once construction gets underway the development will generate about 160 jobs over two years, while at least 13 full time roles will be created throughout the farm's operation phase which is expected to be up to 25 years.

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Environmental group Friends of the Earth toured the planned wind farm site last week as part of its fact-finding RET Review Road Trip.

Renewable energy coordinator Leigh Ewbank said research shows if the Renewable Energy Target stays the same, households are likely to pay $50 less on their power bills by 2020.

"What we have found is that when it comes to a choice between polluting fossil fuels and clean renewable energy, communities in Australia would prefer renewables," he said.

"To ensure that we have a renewable energy powered future, we need to a strong Renewable Energy Target (RET).

"It is really critical for the Renewable Energy Target review to maintain the RET as it is, if the Renewable Energy Target is left alone it means more investment for regional economies such as Ararat."

Friends of the Earth has an online petition calling on the government to support the RET, which currently has close to 1000 signatures including many residents from this region.

The government's RET review is due for completion at the end of June.

Ararat Rural City mayor Paul Hooper said he would seek time with the Environment Minister in the lead up to the review announcement.

"I am endeavouring to get an appointment with Greg Hunt to talk to him and explain how important the development of this is to our municipality," he said.

"It will be something like $22 million worth of expenditure just during the construction phase, RES will be our largest ratepayer by over double anyone else, they are prepared to put $75,000 a year back into the community in terms of grants which go to your football clubs and bowling clubs - all these things are important to us.

"We have our neighbours in the Northern Grampians Shire which will have a small piece of this, but also have another one of their own (at Bulgana) in the pipeline and Pyrenees have two ready to go but are waiting for the results of this RET review.

"In the three municipalities we don't have a dependence on wind, but they are incredibly important ratepayers to us and particularly for the individual land owners it is finically important for them and can drought proof their farms."

Renewable energy supporters Ararat Mayor Paul Hooper, Morrie Allgood, Kevin Erwin Northern Grampians Mayor, Daniel Leahy from RES, Mark McKew, Friends of the Earth Leigh Ewbank, John Anselmi, Wayne Rice, Cr Gwenda Allgood, Russell Pearce and Sandra Hawkins

Renewable energy supporters Ararat Mayor Paul Hooper, Morrie Allgood, Kevin Erwin Northern Grampians Mayor, Daniel Leahy from RES, Mark McKew, Friends of the Earth Leigh Ewbank, John Anselmi, Wayne Rice, Cr Gwenda Allgood, Russell Pearce and Sandra Hawkins

RES Australia's project is almost 10 years in the making and Northern Grampians Shire mayor Kevin Erwin said it would be an important employment opportunity for the two municipalities, particularly with the Hopkins Correctional Centre redevelopment and operation of the Stawell Gold Mines nearing completion.

"Our main focus as a council has been to create jobs, we have been working very hard to try and do that," he said.

"We are really hoping the RET stays the same. I guess like anything it is just consistency and knowing what the future holds that is pretty vital and it is when you get the unknown that you miss out on these types of investments.

"It is great to see a wind farm ready to go, they tend to be talked about for quite a while, so the sooner the review findings can be released the sooner things can get moving."

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