Dec. 8, 2000—Hydro Tasmania, an Australian subsidiary of Norwegian energy and engineering group Norsk Hydro, has signed a contract for six 1.75-MW wind turbines for a new wind farm at Woolnorth, on Australia’s west coast, according to Hydro-Tasmania and news reports. When completed, the Woolnorth wind farm will have a generating capacity of 130-MW.

The Vestas wind turbines will be the largest in the Southern hemisphere to date, and are being purchased at a cost of about $A20 million (U.S. $ 10.38 million). Hydro Tasmania chairman Peter Rae said the company has plans to eventually develop about 1,000 MW of wind power, if a transmission cable connecting Tasmania with the mainland electricity grid is established. Tasmania currently derives its electricity almost entirely from hydropower and would sell the new wind power to the mainland at premium prices.

Australia has more than 500 MW of wind energy at various stages of planning and under construction, including Hydro Tasmania’s 130-MW Woolnorth wind farm, Pacific Hydro’s 140-MW Portland wind farms in Victoria, and Babcock and Brown’s 120-MW Lake Bonney Wind Farm in South Australia, according to Robert Stewart, Senior Engineer for Wind Generation of Hydro Tasmania and a member of the Board of the Australian Wind Energy Association.

These renewable energy projects are being developed in anticipation of new legislation in Australia similar to a Renewables Portfolio Standard. The proposed RPS would require electricity retailers and large generators to purchase (or produce) 9500 GWh per year of new renewable energy by 2010 and establish a competitive market for ‘renewable energy certificates’ to meet this goal. Originally planned to take effect in January 2001, the legislation has been delayed and is still under negotiation. If adopted, it would greatly assist the development of a wind industry in Australia, according to Stewart.