The first phase of work on the NEW project was determining whether there is sufficient community support for a community wind farm in New England, identifying an appropriate financial and legal structure and establishing the principles for appropriate site and size of the wind farm.
A six month Feasibility Study, funded by state government and local organisations, was undertaken to meet these objectives.
- Recording the views of more than 1,300 community members and stakeholders;
- Collating data and statements from an online Community Survey with nearly 600 responses;
- Holding a Series of Forums with community members, investors, landholders and other key stakeholders across the Tablelands;
- Seeking a range of specialist legal, financial and community energy advice, including consideration of relevant existing community owned renewable energy facilities, such as Hepburn Wind in Australia;
- Working out the most important principles to make community wind power acceptable and workable for New England;
- Identifying challenges and risks, and strategies to address these.
Results of the feasibility study and survey show that there is more than sufficient support to build a community wind farm in New England, and the recommendation is that this work should now proceed.
The message that came through from the overwhelming majority of residents and businesses was to 'Go for it'! The New England community response showed that times have changed and we now need to move beyond coal-fired electricity.
It is recommended that a 6-10 turbine community wind farm be established, capable of producing electricity equivalent to 25,000 people (9,000 dwellings) - close to half the residential use of the New England Tablelands. More than 100 landholders have expressed interest in hosting the turbines.
To ensure clear community underpinning of the legal structure, it is necessary to balance the needs of community and larger/professional investors. It is recommended that a Cooperative be formed, for strong community governance and leadership, which will be the majority owner of the wind farm.
For full details of the feasibility study, see http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/3248532