THE region is making its mark in renewable electricity generation with the first sod turned at the White Rock Wind Farm near Glen Innes on Saturday.
Nearly four years after the Department of Planning and Infrastructure approved the project, on July 10, 2012, construction has begun.
The $400 million, 175-megawatt White Rock Wind Farm will be Australia’s largest and initially have 70, 2.5-megawatt turbines, but planning approval has been granted for 119 turbines.
The farm is expected to have the capacity to power about 75,000 homes once fully completed.
The project will be worth about $35 million to the area around Glen Innes during construction of the 199-turbine wind farm, which is worth $400 million.
About 200 jobs will be created during construction and another 10 jobs will be available after construction.
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said the groundbreaking ceremony was an important symbolic step for the region.
“Except for some defunct hydro schemes, this region has always been an energy importer,” he said.
“First with the Moree Solar Farm, and now with White Rock Wind Farm, we are at last using resources freely available to us to generate energy and keep jobs and revenue here, where the benefit is local.”
Mr Marshall said Germany, which has been proactively investing in renewable energy capacity for years, hit a milestone on May 8 when it generated 87 per cent of its entire energy use from renewable sources.
“Germany has nearly four times Australia’s population living in just 5 per cent of Australia’s area,” he said.
“If it can generate nearly all its energy from renewables, we can too.”
White Rock is the first of two wind farms for the Northern Tablelands, with work expected to begin in October on CWP Renewable’s Sapphire Wind Farm, also west of Glen Innes, which will eventually see 159 turbines producing clean energy.
CWP Renewables has already signed a multimillion-dollar contract with the Australian Capital Territory government to provide power for 110,000 homes.
Combined, the two wind farm projects will mean hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investment in the Glen Innes and Inverell communities, Mr Marshall said.
Mr Marshall is supporting a push to have TransGrid build a renewable energy hub near Glen Innes.
“A hub would facilitate easier and cheaper access for wind and solar projects to the electricity grid in the Glen Innes district,” he said.
“This may encourage more companies to consider renewables projects in the area, because grid connection costs will be greatly reduced.”
He is also working with Uralla’s Australian-first Zero Net Energy Town (ZNET) initiative.
The White Rock Wind Farm is expected to be completed late next year.