Australia’s First Community-Owned Wind Farm Turns 10!

Jul 31, 2021by Olivia - F&F

It’s the 10th anniversary of Australia’s first community-owned wind farm, Hepburn Wind!

From Imported Coal To Locally-Generated Wind Power

In June 2011, in Daylesford, Victoria — Hepburn Wind’s two turbines, Gale and Gusto, started generating clean, renewable electricity back into the grid for the very first time. Following seven years of planning, community fundraising, and plenty of setbacks — Australia’s first community-owned wind farm was finally operational!

Since then, the 4.1 MW wind farm has generated more than 100,000,000 kWh; enough to power 2,000 homes in Daylesford and beyond every year. Prior to the installation of the wind farm, the town of Daylesford was primarily powered by coal — which, is one of the key contributors to our climate crisis. 

They’re now looking at becoming the first community-owned hybrid facility with solar and battery storage.

Hepburn Wind PowerHepburn Wind Power

At First, Locals Were Opposed To The Idea

The majority of Daylesford’s residents were completely opposed to a wind farm back in 2004. Former chairman of Hepburn Wind, Simon Holmes à Court, said the atmosphere at a community consultation was “hostile, almost violent.”

According to Simon, a small number of locals left the meeting feeling devastated that the community's first response was knee-jerk opposition. So, they vowed to change the story! Among them was local architect, Per Bernard, who grew up in Denmark where community-owned wind farms were common. After being told that the idea was “crazy”, Bernard and a group of pro-wind locals eventually found Future Energy; a niche developer that was interested in coordinating small to medium-sized renewable energy projects. Future Energy agreed to take on much of the early financial risk, but the rest was up to the community.

Building the Wind FarmBuilding the Wind Farm

Locals Raised $10 Million To Build The Wind Farm!

During this time, Per Bernard’s community-owned wind farm vision attracted the support of hundreds of people in the area and gained enough members to establish the Hepburn Renewable Energy Association (HREA). Just six months later, in August 2006, HREA received a $975,000 grant from Sustainability Victoria.

But the real challenge had only just begun. The project needed $10 million to go ahead — it seems like an impossible task, but the amazing Daylesford community rallied together to raise the funds. The HREA organised countless educational events, street stalls, community forums, bus tours, festival displays and newsletters to spread the word. It was a “long, hard slog”, said Simon, but the incredible community put together the $10 million needed to commence the project.

‘Gale’ & ‘Gusto’ Generate Clean, Renewable Energy

Upon reaching the fundraising goal and acquiring more capital from Regional Development Victoria, Bendigo Bank and Adelaide Bank — HREA finally ordered the wind turbines in December 2009 and began construction soon after. In March 2011, the community watched in awe as the assembly of the two turbines reached completion. The official opening of the wind farm took place in November, where the turbines were named Gale and Gusto! 

Over 2,000 members have a say in the Hepburn Community Wind Farm and its overall vision, showing that each person’s voice matters. Each year, over a quarter of a century, Gale and Gusto at Hepburn Community Wind Farm will generate 10,000 MWh of cheap, clean, renewable energy to meet the local demand for electricity.

Hepburn Wind Is Setting Its Sights On Solar! 

After achieving the impossible, Hepburn Wind is setting its sights on another major target: to become Australia’s first community-owned hybrid facility with solar and battery storage! Early estimates show that a mid-scale solar project near the Hepburn Wind site will double the co-operative’s renewable energy capacity.

Boasting 7.44MW of solar capacity, the proposed solar farm could provide clean energy to an additional 1,500 homes. The project, which includes a 10MWh battery storage facility, has already received a $500,000 grant from the State Governments’ Community Renewables Program. 

Hepburn Wind is inspiring other communities to generate their own clean energy, using the ‘Hepburn Model’ as guidance. Communities all around Australia have expressed interest in building similar renewable energy enterprises.

The journey of Hepburn Community Wind Farm — from the initial vision, to its completion — is utterly inspiring! It demonstrates the power that small communities have to combat climate change and reap the social and economic benefits in the process.

The real beauty of the Hepburn Community Wind Farm is that it’s community-owned, community-funded and community-led. Plus — every kWh that is generated, sent into the grid, and used by the local community is clean, renewable, and good for the planet! 

If you love hearing about renewable energy and climate action — head to the Eco News category for more, or check out the blogs below!

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