wind farm

About The Wind Farm

Hepburn Community Wind Park Co-operative Ltd (Hepburn Wind) is a trading co-operative registered in Victoria (Reg. No: G0003442Y, ABN: 87 572 206 200) with over 2000 members, the majority of whom are local to the project.

The co-operative structure, with each member having one vote, ensures democratic control, however members will receive dividends proportional to their investment.

The co‑operative is managed by a board of seven volunteer directors who are elected at Annual General Meetings of the co‑operative. Operational support is provided by a local executive team.

  • Percent of FY2015 that we were sending clean energy into the grid.

  • Average output as a proportion of full capacity for FY2015.

  • Percent of FY2015 that the wind farm was online.

Accredited GreenPower Generator

Accredited Greenpower provider

Hepburn Wind is an accredited GreenPower Generator.

By purchasing GreenPower, customers are helping to support the renewable energy sector in Australia. This is because the GreenPower Generator not only receives the wholesale electricity price for the renewable energy it provides to the grid, but also the bulk of the small premium paid for GreenPower through the purchase of Large-scale Generation Certificates.

You can purchase our Community Saver and Community Green products via the Products page on this website.

Planning & Compliance

Hepburn Wind is committed to transparency.

Here we list key project documentation related to planning and compliance.

Application for Planning Permit

Hepburn Shire Council planning application

The following planning application was approved by the Hepburn Shire Council in February 2007 (Planning Permit number 2006/9231)

Downloadable forms:

VCAT Planning Approval

The permit was subsequently challenged unsuccessfully at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in June 2007. VCAT applied a range conditions on the permit which are detailed in the document below.

Downloadable forms:

Wind Energy Assessment

As part of the project feasibility, a monitoring mast was erected on Leonards Hill. After 12 months of measurements were collected Garrad Hassan Pacific was commissioned to prepare an assessment of the wind resource and prepare corresponding energy predictions.

Downloadable forms:

Permit Conditions Endorsed

Under the planning permit, Hepburn Wind was obliged to prepare a number of documents and management plans in relation to the project. These were endorsed by council on 7 September 2010.

Permit Conditions Compliance

The following documents provide evidence for the satisfaction of our our permit conditions.

Health and Safety

In keeping with our commitment to transparency, a copy of our Fire Management Plan is available to view below.

FAQs

 

  • What is Hepburn Wind?

    Hepburn Wind is the community co-operative responsible for the first community initiated and owned wind farm in Australia, Hepburn Community Wind Farm. The 4.1 MW wind farm comprises two turbines and is located at Leonards Hill, in Central Victoria, just south of Daylesford and approximately 100 km north-west of Melbourne.

    Hepburn Wind is the trading name of Hepburn Community Wind Park Co-operative Ltd, a co-operative registered in Victoria, Australia. Hepburn Wind was established in 2007 by the Hepburn Renewable Energy Association, now known as SHARE.

    When did the wind farm start generating?

    The Hepburn Community Wind Farm first exported electricity into the local electricity network at 10.20am on 22 June 2011.

    Who owns Hepburn Wind?

    Hepburn Wind is owned by its members, numbering over 2000. Just over half of Hepburn Wind’s members identify as local to the farm.

    Since each member receives a single vote at meetings, all members have an equal say. In order to ensure that the interests of the local community remain paramount, the board aims to maintain majority local ownership

    Are shares still available?

    As of June 2011 we have raised all the funds required to build and operate the wind farm, however we continue to favorably consider applications for new membership in order to give as many people as possible the opportunity to own a part of a wind farm.

    Currently, we facilitate the sale of shares for our members by pairing those wanting to sell with potential buyers. If you would like to be added to our list of sellers, please see the Join page for further details.

    How is the project financed?


    The project’s financing comprises:

    - Capital from members and applicants $9,900,000

    - Sustainability Victoria RESF grant  $975,000

    - Regional Development Victoria RIDF grant $750,000

    - Bendigo and Adelaide Bank loan (10 years, not fully drawn) $3,100,000

    - A debt guarantee from Embark Australia $1,000,000


    Future Energy underwrote a significant portion of the early stage development costs.

    What are the social benefits?

    The project is demonstrably delivering a host of significant social benefits to our local area. The project has:

    - Set a new standard in community engagement for infrastructure, helping to greatly reduce the reflexive opposition common to other wind farm developments
    - Created a wealth of intellectual property, which is being made freely available to others

    - Created new employment and skill development opportunities for our local staff and more than a dozen local service providers

    - ‘Up-skilled’ dozens of volunteers in areas as diverse as community engagement, project management, finance, communications and contract negotiation as the project interacts with a large number of community, commercial and government stakeholders in a complex industry

    - Empowered many in the community with a sense of pride and purpose, fostering a range of new and complementary local sustainability groups

    - Designed an innovative benefit sharing model that will ensure that the whole community stands to benefit.

    What are the economic benefits?


    With over $13.5m invested and an anticipated working life of over 25 years, the project is one of the most significant projects undertaken locally in recent decades.
The community enterprise model provides many economic benefits for the region:

    - Construction employment: construction of the wind farm involved over seven work-years of on-site employment.

    - Local purchasing: the project strives to use local service providers wherever possible, not just for construction and operations, but for catering, graphic design, internet service, accountancy and other consulting services. Project expenditure includes more than $7 million of Australian content with more than half of this spent in regional Victoria.
    - Ongoing employment: Hepburn Wind currently employs three part-time local staff in the operation of the wind farm and the management of the co-operative.

    - Return to local investors: with very significant local investment, a large proportion of the ongoing profits of the project will remain in the region.

    What benefits are shared with neighbours?

    We have implemented a number of innovative mechanisms to ensure that additional benefits are provided to the approximately 65 households in a defined geographical area of up to approximately 2.2 km from the wind farm.

    -  Neighbourhood share offer: neighbours in the immediate vicinity of the wind farm have been offered a gift of equity in the project. This is a ‘no strings attached’ offer, which provides neighbours with a share in the success of the wind farm as well as conferring rights of ownership such as the opportunity to vote at meetings of the co-operative.

    - Electricity affordability program: we have developed a program that provides a contribution to electricity bills for each household in the neighbourhood.
    - Visual screening: we have offered tree planting to all neighbours with a view of turbines, rather than just the 18 required by our permit conditions.
    - Community Fund: a portion of the Fund is focused on projects and institutions (such as the Leonards Hill Hall and the Leonards Hill CFA) in the immediate neighbourhood area of the wind farm.

    What is the Community Fund?

    Our project was founded with the goal that the whole community should have the opportunity to benefit from the wind farm, not just those with a direct financial stake.

    
The Hepburn Wind Community Fund is a key part of our community enterprise model and encompasses our local benefit sharing programme, community grants and sponsorships.

    
The community grants program has now funded 52 projects in the past six years, worth $102,730 in total.

    The Fund’s grant programme is administered by a committee at ‘arms length’ from the board. Details of the Fund’s guidelines, application details and grants (as they are announced) can be found on the community page.

    Who Developed the Project?

    The early stages of our community enterprise were a co-operation between Hepburn Shire locals (initially a group of friends, then a steering committee, then the Hepburn Renewable Energy association and finally as Hepburn Wind) and Future Energy Pty Ltd, a Melbourne based developer of medium scale renewable energy projects.

    
In recognition of their key role played in the early stages of the project and financial risks incurred, Future Energy received a development fee with a nominal value of $400,000, partly payable in shares of the co-operative.

    
Hepburn Wind engaged a large number of service providers directly and indirectly over the course of the project including Ballarat University, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Bleyer Lawyers, Consolidated Power Projects, David Sparks, Designscope, Dr Greg Richards, Elliot Accounting, Elmoby, Entura, Full Cycle Gardens, Future Energy, Garrad Hassan Pacific, Hardrock Geotechnical, John Cleary Planning, Komesaroff Legal Pty Ltd, Laser Electrical, LiMA Accounting + Consulting, Marshall Day Acoustics, Maddocks Lawyers, Mattila Lawyers, Montimedia, pitt&sherry, Peter Wallace, Powercor, REpower Systems, Senergy Econnect Australia, Spade to Blade and Terra Culture Pty Ltd.

    
We are extremely grateful that many companies provided their services at discounted rates.
    
In addition, we have received valuable advice and assistance from a large number of members and individuals with a passion for renewable energy and our community.

    How is Hepburn Wind governed?

    Hepburn Wind is governed by a board of seven directors, elected by the member shareholders at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) on the basis of the co-operative principle of ‘one member, one vote’.

    All members 18 years and over may nominate for a directorship in the period prior to the Annual General Meeting, as prescribed in our rules.

    What is a co-operative?


    A co-operative is similar to a public corporation, in that it is incorporated, issues shares and has all the powers of a natural person.

    
Whereas the primary responsibility of the board of a company is to maximise the financial return to shareholders within the boundaries of the law, co-operatives are established for the benefit of their members.

    
Members of a co-operative are generally the co-operative’s customers. In the case of Hepburn Wind, as the co-operative is not an energy retailer, members become customers indirectly through arrangements with Powershop. The member’s benefit is only partly realised by the payment of dividends or rebates. In this case, Hepburn Wind provides its members, the local and broader Australian community with the additional benefit of producing emissions free electricity.

    
Unlike companies, co-operatives are democratic institutions. Regardless of the number of shares any one shareholder owns, the shareholder always has one vote at meetings. For example, a member investing $100 has as much say as a member investing $100,000.

    Does Hepburn Wind publish audited accounts?

    Yes. Hepburn Wind is a co-operative incorporated under the Victorian Co-operatives Act 1996 (as amended). The Co-operatives Act imposes standard accounting and auditing requirements on co-operatives similar to those imposed on companies.

    
Our financial statements are prepared by local accounting firm and auditor. Our financial statements form a part of our Annual Report which is lodged with the Victorian Registrar of Co-operatives in accordance with the Co-operatives Act. Our Annual Report are available in the members section of our website.

    How are members kept informed?

    We are required to report our financial performance to members on an annual basis. At each Annual General Meeting audited financial accounts are presented as part of our Annual Report.

    
In addition, we regularly update our members and other stakeholders via email and our website. A selection of our newsletters are archived on our website. Energy generation reports are also available on our website.

    Why a wind farm?


    Our founders were determined to build a renewable energy project that would supply a significant portion of the local electricity demand. The maturity of commercial wind turbine technology, coupled with our above average local wind resource made a wind farm the obvious choice.

    Did the wind farm require a planning permit?

    The project was required to submit a planning application to the Hepburn Shire Council. The permit was issued in February 2007. According to the local paper, the council received 325 submissions in support of the proposal and 18 objections.

    
The permit was challenged at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in June 2007. Although the challenge was unsuccessful, a number of significant conditions were placed on the project.

    What community engagement was undertaken?

    Hepburn Wind and the Hepburn Renewable Energy Association (HREA, now known as SHARE) worked hard to build a strong base of support within the community. Since inception in 2005, through to construction, Hepburn Wind and HREA have:

    - Run more than 130 street information stalls in the local area
    
- Conducted more than 100 personal home visits to local residents
    
- Run bus tours allowing more than 250 locals to visit turbines at nearby wind farms
    
- Sent more than 20 project update letters to local residents
    
- Been featured in numerous articles in local, state and national print, television, magazine and radio media
- Advertised extensively in the local newspaper
    
- Sponsored numerous events including the International Day of Climate Action and Walk Against Warming, Swiss Italian Festa and Chil lOut
    
- Appeared at many events including Sustainable Living Festival, Alternative Technology Association meetings and the Daylesford New Years Eve Parade
    
- Actively engaged with local sustainability groups such as SHARE, WISE, MRSG, MASG, BREAZE, HRN, BSG, MEG and others
    
- Sent more than 40 news updates to an email list of more than 6000 people who have registered their interest in the project
    
- Maintained a presence on facebook and twitter
- Run public forums about the wind farm and general sustainability issues.

    Post-construction, we have continued to value community engagement, through speaking at dozens of events around the country and internationally, hosting large public events at the wind farm and wind farm tours.

  • What studies and assessments were undertaken during the project’s development phase?

    As part of the planning permit application, the following studies and assessments were undertaken:

    - Flora

    - Fauna (including birds and bats)

    - Wind energy

    - Cultural heritage

    - Landscape and visual assessment

    - Shadow flicker / blade glint

    - Noise impact (pre- and post-construction)

    - Geotechnical

    - Electricity grid connection

    - Electromagnetic interference

    - Aviation.

    We are committed to maximum transparency. In this spirit, relevant reports are freely available on the wind farm section of our website.

    Why just two turbines?


    The scale of the project is suited for the energy requirements and financial resources of our community. The site of the Hepburn Community Wind Farm is suitable for only two turbines. Our rules permit us to invest in more wind turbines, however any additional turbines will not be on Leonards Hill.

    How are the turbines maintained?


    In September 2016 we engaged Meridian Energy Australia to help us manage the operation of the wind farm. Meridian owns and operates the nearby Mt Mercer Wind Farm and has considerable experience with Senvion turbines and electrical balance of plant.

    We have entered into a new five year maintenance contract with Senvion our Integrated Service Provider.

    What responsibility do members have for the activities of the Co-operative?


    Each individual member’s risk is limited to the value of their fully paid up share capital (as well as any personal debts owing to the co-operative) upon winding up. Members are not otherwise liable for the activity of the co-operative.

    
We maintain a comprehensive insurance policy which specifically addresses risks of claims arising from the operation of the wind farm.

    What kind of turbines are installed?

    The Hepburn Community Wind Farm comprises two REpower MM82 (Senvion) wind turbines, each with a maximum capacity of 2.05 MW. The wind farm has been designed to output 4.1 MW when operating at full power. The wind farm has a predicted capacity factor of 34%.

    
The planning permit constrained the maximum height of the wind farm to 110 m from ground to blade tip. The Senvion turbines sit on a 68 m tower and have a blade length of 41 m. At this height, no aircraft warning lights are required.

    What is the wind like on Leonards Hill?


    A wind monitoring mast was installed on the Leonards Hill site in August 2006. After 12 months of data had been collected, Garrad Hassan Pacific Pty Ltd, a recognised world leader in wind energy analysis, was engaged to perform an expert wind energy assessment for the site.

    
Garrad Hassan’s assessment predicts a hub-height average wind speed of 7.7 m/s with a standard error of 0.50 m/s. The wind energy analysis is available in the wind farm section of this website.

    
Garrad Hassan analysed the detailed wind data and the nominal performance of the chosen wind turbines and predicted that the average annual energy production of the wind farm will exceed 12.2 GWh in 50% of years, 10.8 GWh in 75% of years, and 9.4 GWh in 90% of years.

    
While the methodology applied is rigorous, the predictions are based on a number of estimates and assumptions, which may lead to error (positive or negative) in the predictions. Furthermore, actual performance of any system harnessing natural forces will exhibit variability, and as such there is a significant risk that average estimates will not be met in a given year.

    
In 2012 we delivered 9.8 GWh, in 2013 10.8 GWh and in 2014 11.2 GWh.

    What is the working life of the wind farm?

    The directors believe that 25 years is a reasonable estimate for the life of the turbines. Much like any machinery, maintenance costs will increase as the turbines age and at some point in the distant future the current turbines will reach the end of their economic life.
    
Many years from now our board of directors will consult with members and the landowner and determine the appropriate course of action, currently expected to be either:
    
- Decommissioning the turbines, returning residual funds to members

    - Recommissioning of the wind farm (known as ‘repowering’).

    What happens in extreme wind conditions?

    On the rare occasions that the wind exceeds 25 m/s, the turbines automatically ‘feather’ their blades so that they catch minimal wind. A brake is applied and the turbine stops and waits for the high wind conditions to pass.

    
The blades, towers and foundations are designed to withstand wind speeds well in excess of anything that can reasonably be expected at Leonards Hill.

    What fire risks do turbines present?

    Turbine fires are very rare, but occur very occasionally, just as they do with other activities that involve electricity, heat and machinery such as cars, tractors, harvesters, trains, buildings, mines, schools and houses.

    It is our understanding that over the past 15 years there have been only three turbine fires in Australia, all of which were contained. In context, there are an estimated 220 haystack fires each year in Victoria alone.
Each turbine has a lightning collection system providing a safe path for lightning from the blades, down the tower and into a copper earth grid underground. By providing an alternate and preferred route for lightning, it is likely that turbines reduce the incidence of lightning induced bush-fires in the local vicinity.

    The CFA was consulted both during the planning process and for the development of our fire management plans.

    What difference will these turbines make?

    Before our two turbines were built, the overwhelming majority of electricity used in the area was generated from fossil fuel sources. Most of this would have been transmitted through some 400 km of power lines from the coal-fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley.

    
Since June 2011, we have been generating clean energy in Leonards Hill and feeding it directly into the local grid. Electricity generated locally reduces demand that the local area places on the wider network and due to losses in the network, every kWh we generate displaces the need for an estimated 1.1 kWh to be generated elsewhere.

    
Detailed modeling by independent engineering firm Garrad Hassan based on actual wind data predicts that the wind farm will generate an average of 12,200 MWh per year. This is equivalent to the demand of 2300 average Victorian Households.

    
This locally generated renewable energy from our wind farm is expected to prevent an average of 12,200 tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere every year.

    Couldn’t you just plant trees instead to offset CO2?

    According to a leading carbon offset organisation, to offset as much CO2 as our wind farm you’d need to plant 45,523 trees every year. While we love trees and our members have collectively planted hundreds of thousands of them, trees don’t generate electricity and do nothing to reduce our community’s reliance on burning fossil fuels for electricity.

    
Significantly reducing our community’s carbon footprint requires a mix of initiatives, including renewable energy generation.

    What happens when the wind isn’t blowing?


    When the wind is very low or still, our turbines don’t generate and our area reverts to importing power from elsewhere. When the wind is blowing a gale our power makes its way to houses well outside our local area.

    
On average the wind farm powers over 2000 homes, but at peak production and minimum local demand we power many more times than this. Interestingly, in our area peak demand is at 1am in the morning due to off-peak water heating.

    Does the area need backup power now there’s a wind farm?

    No. Simplistically, our project is to a town as a solar array is to a house -- we are ‘seen’ by the network as a reduction in demand.

    
No generator works 100% of the time, and no generator can be said to be backing up any other. The sophisticated National Electricity Market is made up of hundreds of generators who, co-ordinated by the market operator AEMO, guarantee that supply matches demand at all times.
On average, our turbines are generating 89% of the time, however the amount generated obviously varies with the amount of wind.

    How does the co-operative sell its electricity?

    Traditionally, most wind farms enter into long term Power Purchase Agreements with a retailer. At the time of developing the project, our board determined that the prices on offer were not reasonable and chose instead to sell our energy at the market price.

    
As such we are exposed to full price and volume risk.

    
Market prices in the National Electricity Market are set in a form of auction every 30 minutes throughout the day. At times of high demand prices can be well over $1000 per megawatt hour and when demand is low the price can even go negative. Hepburn Wind accesses the energy market through an offtake agreement with Red Energy.

    How can I buy the power generated by Hepburn Wind?

    Our electricity partner is Powershop, who pay us for the output of the wind farm at the prevailing National Electricity Market price.

    
Hepburn Wind and Powershop have collaborated to create an electricity retail product.

    Find out more here:
    powershop.com.au/hepburnwind

    How can my community build a project like this?

    Communities all around Australia have expressed interest in building their own renewable energy enterprises utilising a range of technologies – including wind, solar, bioenergy and mini-hydro. Many have committed themselves to generating clean energy locally and some already have well developed initiatives.

    
We work with the non-profit body Embark to capture our learning’s and make them widely available so that other communities may adapt the ‘Hepburn Model’, as it is often called, to suit their unique requirements.

    
A good place to start learning is the Embark wiki, a collaborative knowledge base developed as a best practice toolkit for developing a local renewable energy project. Articles focus on a range of issues including technical, governance, and community engagement.


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