Millions of dollars are being injected into the New England for large-scale renewable projects every year.
And while it might be daunting for many farmers, it’s a brave new world we have to get used to, Wind Alliance NSW organiser Charlie Prell says.
A fourth generation farmer from Crookwell and a turbine host himself, Mr Prell is holding a forum in Kentucky this week to shed light on common myths about renewable projects.
He said a major issue is when neighbouring properties are left with no say and no money while next door gets the benefits.
“It’s really easy to solve,” he said.
“The Wind Alliance has been promoting this thing called benefit sharing.”
It’s all about strategic options for delivering ownership for wind farms in NSW, Mr Prell said.
“It’s so most people are not excluded from projects,” he said.
“They probably won’t get paid as much as a host but at the moment there’s a cliff face where the host gets paid a lot and the neighbours get paid nothing.
“Obviously they become disillusioned and skeptical by that process.”
Mr Prell said if neighbours are paid on a sliding scale depending on their proximity to the turbines, instead of a “cliff face” there’s a gradual decline.
“There’s no economic precedent for doing that but in small regional communities it actually makes a whole lot of social sense,” he said.
“It’s the best way to get maximum benefit from wind and solar projects in small regional communities.”
It’s the best way to get maximum benefit from wind and solar projects in small regional communities.Charlie Prell
Another issue that can make landholders hesitate is the scale of works and the messy construction, Mr Prell said.
“Even I was surprised at the scale of construction happening right now on my farm,” he said.
“It looks really messy when you’re building it but once it’s finished it’s not messy at all.
“All of those issues can be resolved by farmers working together to get a good environmental outcome and good economic and physical outcome.”
Mr Prell said construction can be beneficial for a farm in the long-run.
“You get good roads throughout your property and most roads on wind farms are better than Council-standard roads,” he said.
Mr Prell said wind organisations now also offer Community Enhancement Grants.
“There’s also a wider community benefit for community groups, school groups … all of those organisations can access Community Enhancement Funding that has become normal for wind farms to contribute,” he said.
“It’s generally overseen by the local council in conjunction by the wind farm company.
“In my area there’s two wind farms now in their second year of allocating this funding to projects in the community and it’s really stringently assessed by community members.”
Mr Prell said the forum will also feature lessons from the National Wind Farm Commissioner, Andrew Dyer about how community interests can be secured by wind farm projects.
“One of the opportunities is for people to work together as groups so they can collectively bargain with wind farm companies,” Mr Prell said.
“There’s currently a lot of prospecting going on between Armidale, Tamworth and Walcha.”
The public forum will be held at the Kentucky Memorial Hall on Thursday from 6:15pm.
Complimentary supper will be provided.
To register visit www.windalliance.org.au/kentucky_forum_17 or call 0434 769 463.