By Gerard Ingham, Hepburn Springs
Editors note. We receive many messages from our members asking what they can do to alleviate climate change and we frequently make suggestions to you for example GreenClinics shown on the DEA web page. We have a further suggestion for you based upon Hepburn a town of one hour north –west of Melbourne. In 2005 the Hepburn Renewable Energy Association decided to establish a community owned wind farm that would help match the electricity needs of the Hepburn Shire. Permissions have now been granted for two 2 megawatt wind turbines with a total capacity of 4 megawatt of power, enough electricity for 2,300 homes, in Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. The farm will be owned by Hepburn Wind. The shareholders will be 50 percent local community shareholders, there is a community Board and $30,000 will be contributed annually for sustainability projects. In addition to the community’s contribution to the reduction of greenhouse emissions, there will be local jobs in the construction phase and future energy security if needs be. So if you are a doctor in a rural community your standing and leadership might well be used to activate such a development in your region.
The solutions to climate change are too important to be left entirely to government. The September/October newsletter had the inspirational story from the Danish island of Samso. To this we now add this contribution from Hepburn, Victoria; on track to be Australia’s first community owned wind farm.
Article by Gerard Ingham
There are many seemingly inconsequential things I have seen during my journey to being a rural GP. I remember seeing Australia’s first patients with AIDS at Fairfield Hospital in Melbourne. I remember seeing Barry Marshall being laughed at for suggesting Helicobacter causes peptic ulcer. I also remember learning about global warming in a chemistry class in 1979. Yes, 1979 – global warming is not a new problem.
When I bought a bush block in 1993 I had a choice between paying $40,000 to connect to the electricity grid and spending about the same amount of money to power a “normal” house with alternative power. To be honest, I probably would have been better off financially to have connected to the grid. At that time, when I told people of my decision to run my house on wind and solar power they thought I was crazy. Now when I tell people they think I had foresight.
I know my decision was not of the consequence of HIV or Helicobacter, but it involved my knowledge of science and willingness to think about the future consequences of actions taken today.
My decision was that of only one individual. How do we move from relying on individual actions such as mine to involving the community in the change that is needed to remedy our reliance on fossil fuels?
The Hepburn Wind project is an innovative project for Australia – the first community owned wind farm. The community owns the solution (but the investment is open to locals and non-locals alike).
I have been impressed by the people involved in the development of this project. By adopting the community model they are minimizing the resistance to change and educating the community about renewable energy. They are involving the community in practical solutions available to us now. The planning permit hurdle for this project was cleared easily because it had community support.
I am both a supporter of Hepburn Wind and a shareholder for to me it is a sound business model, a good investment in these difficult times. I personally believe the future cost of electricity may have been underestimated and it may be even more profitable than forecast.
Being a local GP, I know many of the Directors of the Board which has the right mix of community involvement and sound business savvy with Simon Holmes a Court as the Chairman. Their community commitment has ensured that they have given much time to this project for nominal expenses
To me the project makes sense as an investment and makes sense for the environment and for our community. I feel good to think that my family contributes less to global warming from the way we live at home. I reckon it will feel great to own a share of a community sponsored wind farm that makes a difference for our environment.
For more information about the Hepburn Wind project visit www.hepburnwind.com.au