Australia's first community-owned wind farm Hepburn Wind won this year's World Wind Energy Award for their initative. Community officer Taryn Lane talks about the benefits of community power.
DW: What is community power?
Taryn Lane: Community power is communites taking control of their clean energy transition.
How does this create profits for the community?
The community ownership model is a community benefit model. It's a community enterprise, so basically there's multiple dimensions of how the community receives benefits. They can be members and members receive a dividend. There's generally a sustainability fund or a grant system that feeds back profit into the community. As well as local employment. And by having local membership, you keep the profits in the local economy.
How does this protect the environment?
It protects the environment because we're choosing to generate clean energy in our local area instead of exporting from over 400 kilometers (249 miles) away from a coal energy source.
Can you give us an example of a community that is using this type of power?
Our community in Daylesford Australia. It was a seven-year journey to get this project happening. But, we started generating a year ago last week, and we are very proud of our two turbines, ‘Gayle' and ‘Gusto'.
Wind farms like this one generate clean energy locally. Hepburn Wind started generating electricity in June 2011
It's a beautiful environment. Sustainability, I believe, is part of the consciousness there. We have a lot of support in the community for the project. A lot of the local community are lower to middle class citizens. For that purpose, we have a community ownership approach. Any local person can join up for as little as NZ$100 ($80 or 65 euros).
Because of that we had a large take-up in our local community. It was very inclusive, our approach.
Can you give us an example of a community where a project like this hasn't worked?
What I can give an example of is two other community groups who are really working hard, who want to do the same thing. One is the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group which is in Victoria and another called New England Wind located in New South Wales. Because of the new planning policy, they are really struggling to get their projects off the ground.
We would really like to see the government support community energy projects, because they are a different model and they have a lot of support from within the communites. And that's really important if we are going to make this transition to a clean energy future.
We've heard about villages in Germany and England doing this. Are community power models better suited to smaller areas, or it sustainable in larger urban spaces?
As far as wind goes, it's definitely very suitable for villages and the more rural context. But we have such an opportunity for urban centers with solar in Australia.
How does it benefit communities to generate their own energy?
I really believe that energy is like the blood of society. It's something that we don't really talk about. But it's the veins that keep everything operating. As non-renewable resources run out, we really need to think about what is the best way that we can still keep pumping our blood and keep existing.
I think having community owned projects and generating our energy, bringing that back to being near us, so we know that we are connected to our energy source is coming from. That's an empowering process for communities on so many levels.
Taryn Lane is the community officer for Hepburn Wind located in Daylesford, Australia and the communications officer for Embark, a non-profit organization encouraging locally-owned, low-cost renewable energy.
Interview: Jessie Wingard/shc
Editor: Sarah Steffen