As a result of high energy prices and climate change, the transformation to clean and cheap renewable energy is occurring at an increasingly rapid pace. The thirty-five Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) planned in the eastern states will result in the most profound change to our landscape since land clearing and mining began. Although most Australians are supportive, both regional and city dwellers share concerns about the impact on communities, agriculture, the environment, and biodiversity.
Reports by Sydney University and the Clean Energy Council, however, reveal how most of these concerns can be addressed by adequate planning and local community engagement. Benefits can be shared by pooling funds within each REZ to create significant assets and programs, including training and employment.
Microgrids with community batteries improve reliability and reduce power costs. Solar farms can be screened by plantings and agrivoltaic design principles allow dual use of land combining agriculture and electricity generation. Curtailing wind generation during times of high bat activity, and painting one turbine blade black decrease bat and bird mortality respectively.
Going underground with new transmission lines, as Germany legislated in 2015, is desirable and the Moorabool Shire Council’s work in this area is useful. Sydney University’s Renewables and Rural Australia report and the Clean Energy Council’s Guide to Benefit Sharing are excellent resources. City residents, who will benefit from the power generated, must support regional communities, and demand the highest standards of planning and consultation from government and companies at this critical time.