Farmers cashing in on renewable energy opportunities

One in five people living in regional Australia believe renewable energy will provide the biggest opportunity for their area over the next two decades.

A survey of almost 700 people was undertaken by Farmers for Climate Action in areas with a perceived conflict between renewables and farming, in Central Queensland as well as the Hunter and Illawarra regions of NSW.

The polling carried out in the past fortnight found 29 per cent of regional people thought tourism would be the biggest opportunity for their region in the next 20 years, compared to around 22 per cent who believed it would be renewables.

Chair of Farmers for Climate Action Brett Hall says farmers are already making good money from renewable projects.

“Typical payments being offered to farmers by wind companies are now more than $40,000 per turbine per year, and many farms host dozens of turbines whilst still farming sheep or cattle,” Mr Hall said.

“Renewable energy on farms saves family farms and makes farmers money,” he told reporters at the launch of the survey in Canberra on Monday.

Renewable projects have drawn the ire of farmers in some parts, with concerns over a lack of consultation and the threats posed to prime agricultural land.

Some opposing renewable energy plan to rally at parliament house in Canberra on Tuesday calling for federal and state governments to suspend the rollout of renewables.

On Monday more than a dozen farmers with renewable projects on their properties lined up at a press conference to promote the benefits.

Among them was NSW farmer Charlie Prell, who is selling his farm with 12 wind turbines on the property near Goulburn.

“We’ve just negotiated the sale … the value of the wind turbines has multiplied the value of my farm,” he said.

The income stream from the turbines attracted international buyers, he said.

Of those polled, 39 per cent identified extreme weather driven by climate change as the biggest threat to farming, compared to five per cent who expressed concern about transmission lines.

The federal government wants 82 per cent of electricity produced by renewables by 2030, up from 32 per cent in 2022.

A major energy study released on Friday reviewing consultation over renewable energy projects called for improved complaints handling after finding a “lack of trust” in the community.

Improved community consultation, better complaint handling through ombudsman roles and a rating system for developers are among nine recommendations put forward by the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner.

The review was carried out after complaints about poor planning and a lack of consultation with farmers, with the federal government accepting all nine recommendations in principle.

Farmers for Climate Action CEO Natalie Collard said a small number of “very concerning regional engagements” shouldn’t risk Australia’s shift to renewable energy.

“We’re working hand in glove with government we’re looking for a model code of conduct for all renewable companies, a higher standard for all communities.”

But other farming groups remain cautious.

“The challenge remains to protect the areas with the best soils and access to water,” Emma Germano, president of the Victorian Farmers’ Federation said.

Last year farmers protested at the Victorian parliament over plans to run transmission lines and towers through their land.


Liv Casben
(Australian Associated Press)


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