You may remember my post about the game changing Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP) a few weeks ago. Recently I was lucky enough to go out to where the wind farm will be, Crowlands.
Crowlands is about 2.5 hours from Melbourne in Western Victoria. It is an agricultural community 20 kilometers north east of Ararat.
I was out there for the initiation of the building of the wind farm and the visit allowed me to truly understand the positive impact the MREP will have on the local community.
The construction of the wind farm will provide 140 jobs and the ongoing maintenance of it will support eight permanent jobs. But talking to Cr Gwenda Allgood the Deputy Mayor of Ararat, it doesn't stop there. Pacific Hydro (the Melbourne based clean energy company which will own and operate the Crowlands wind farm) rents the land the turbines are built on, providing a guaranteed income to local farmers. They also pay rates and taxes locally and provide support to the local community through grants and funding to groups such as the CFA, Rotary and the Ararat Community Band.
At the announcement of the MREP at the end of last year all project partners were presented with a lovely wooden turbine. Out at Crowlands I met the wonderful gentleman who carves these mementos. Like the Deputy Mayor of Ararat, he is supportive of the new wind farm and the benefits it brings to his community. In fact the wooden turbines are carved on a lathe purchased by a grant from Pacific Hydro.
Instead of holding an elaborate sod turning ceremony in a fancy marque with catering from a national supplier, Pacific Hydro stayed true to the MREP's (and Fed Square's) values of sustainability and community spirit. They hired the local hall and the Ararat Community Band for the launch. The Ararat Rotary group provided a hearty lunch of locally sourced delicacies. But best of all the money Pacific Hydro saved holding the event this way this was used to provide a solar power system and battery for the Crowlands Hall, helping to make the running of the public facility more cost effective for the community.
We finished the day with a tour out to an existing wind farm, so we could get a feel for how big the turbines are and better understand how they work (for nerds like me who love that sort of thing!).
Talking to the locals at Crowland helped me realise how the MREP is positively supporting their community in many more ways we than we ever considered during the development of the project. This shows, yet again, how aligned the MREP is to Fed Square's vision and commitment to the community and makes me proud to be part of both.