In late 2005, a wind farm developer held a community consultation meeting regarding the proposed Clarkes Hill wind farm. The development proposal received strong community opposition, much to the disappointment of a small group of Daylesford residents. Instead of accepting the community’s negativity and rejection, this group decided to pursue the idea further.
Local architect and Daylesford resident, Per Bernard, formed a steering group and began looking for wind developers who might be interested in the community co-operative model. Most were not interested in building such a small wind farm for a group with no industry experience and no money.
However one developer referred Per to niche developer Future Energy, which was interested in the development of small to medium-sized renewable energy projects. Future Energy had already identified Leonards Hill, near Daylesford, as a suitable site.
Backed by a local steering committee, Per formed an agreement with Future Energy whereby they agree to attempt to develop a community-owned wind farm, with Future Energy co-ordinating project development and advising the community. Per’s steering committee would build local individual and organisational support. Future Energy agreed to take on much of the early financial risk in exchange for a development fee.
The wind park cooperative was established by the Hepburn Renewable Energy Association, now known as the Sustainable Hepburn Association – Renewing the Earth(SHARE). The association was formed to garner local support for the wind park. It did this through a broad range of educational activities, including community forums, personal visits to site neighbours, information meetings, bus tours, festival displays, newsletters and fortnightly street stalls in Daylesford’s main street. The amount of energy, goodwill and commitment that went into this exercise is immeasurable.
The turbines were ordered in December 2009, and a full construction contract was signed in April 2010. The turbines were erected in March 2011, and began generating power in June 2011. The landowner at Leonards Hill has agreed to a 25 year lease for the wind farm, with options to extend.
The wind farm is owned by the local community through Hepburn Wind. The co-operative manages the wind farm, provides financial returns to its members and funds community projects through a community fund. The co-operative structure allows for wide-scale community involvement.
Almost 2000 co-operative members have contributed $9.8 million to the construction of the wind farm. The Victorian state government has provided grants totaling $1.725m and the Bendigo Bank a $3.1m loan.
Raising such a large sum has been a significant achievement, particularly for a project that has never been attempted before in Australia. It shows other communities a new way of funding and developing wind energy resources, through direct investment from small investors and local communities who want to support local renewable energy.
Hepburn Wind was established as a model for other communities and has a strong focus on; community engagement, regional economic benefits, local jobs, community empowerment and capacity building.
To read more about our experience and our learnings please view our case study on the Embark Wiki.