The past, present and future of wind farms in WA
Western Australia is in the ideal location to harness the power of wind energy thanks to our vast stretches of coastline and abundance of windy conditions. In fact, WA wind farms have played an important role in our energy generation mix since 1987.
Here is an overview of the past, present and future of wind power in WA.
The beginning of wind power
It’s likely that people have been harnessing the power of the wind through sails, wheels and windmills since the beginning of civilisation.
The first time wind was known to produce electricity on a small scale was in Scotland in 1887. It wasn’t until the 1970s that wind power technology was developed to generate electricity on an industrial scale.
1987 – The first wind farm in Australia and WA
The Salmon Beach Wind Farm near Esperance was the first wind farm in Australia, with six turbines that operated for nearly 15 years. The asset was decommissioned in 2002 due to the age of the turbines and larger, more cost-effective units that had since become available.
A single turbine proudly on display in Esperance as a celebration of the launch of wind energy in Australia.
1993 – Wind power in Esperance
The Esperance Wind Farm opened with nine wind turbines positioned at Ten Mile Lagoon.
2001 – Albany Wind Farm
The original Albany Wind Farm was commissioned in October 2001 and was the largest of its kind in Australia at time, featuring 12 wind turbines.
2004 – Esperance Nine Mile Beach expansion
Esperance’s wind power supply was expanded in 2004 when six more turbines were built at Nine Mile Beach. These, combined with the Esperance Wind Farm at nearby Ten Mile Lagoon, generates enough electricity to meet around 20 per cent of Esperance’s power needs in 2022.
2004 – More turbines and more wind farms in WA
A single 600-kilowatt wind turbine was installed at Bremer Bay, around 400km south-east of Perth. The turbine features a 46-metre-high tower with three 22-metre-long blades. An identical wind turbine was installed at Hopetoun Wind Farm, about 175km west of Esperance.
2007 – Hopetoun Bay and Coral Bay Wind Farms
In 2007, Hopetoun Bay Wind Farm was expanded with another 600-kilowatt wind turbine added and a new diesel power station opened. This combined solution aimed to reduce greenhouse emissions by 1850 tonnes each year, the equivalent of taking approximately 500 cars off the road.
Coral Bay Wind Farm was also opened in 2007. Three 275-kilowatt wind turbines were installed as part of the wind farm. For the first time in WA, the wind turbines were built with the ability to be lowered to the ground during extreme weather conditions.
2008 – Kalbarri Wind Farm
Two 800-kilowatt wind turbines were constructed 25km south of Kalbarri. The project aimed to increase the capacity of the local electrical network and improve the town’s electricity supply. It was estimated this wind farm would offset around 5,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
2011 – Expansion of Albany Wind Farm
An additional six turbines were installed in Albany to form the Albany-Grasmere Wind Farm. This site is open to the public, where you can visit to see the size of the turbines and enjoy scenic coastal views.
2013 – Mumbida Wind Farm
Synergy and Infrastructure Capital Group developed the Mumbida Wind Farm, which employed up to 100 people during the construction phase and opened in 2013. The site’s 22 turbines are located on farming land around 40km southeast of Geraldton. Infrastructure Capital Group completed a 100 percent acquisition of the asset in 2016.
2020 – Rising power of the wind
In 2020, wind power was listed as Australia's leading source of clean energy, supplying 35.9 per cent of the country's renewable energy and 9.9 per cent of Australia's overall electricity.
WA wind power today
Today, WA is home to a growing number of renewable energy projects, including wind power.
A key focus in many of our renewable energy projects is combining the generation capabilities of solar and wind power. Solar and wind make perfect energy partners – as solar energy can generate power during the sunlight hours and wind energy at any time.
For example, the Kalbarri microgrid was commissioned in 2021, a joint initiative between Synergy, Western Power, Synergy, Shire of Northampton, Mid West Development Commission and the Kalbarri community. This is one of Australia’s largest microgrids and able to run entirely on renewable energy, with approximately:
- 1.6 megawatts – supplied by our Kalbarri wind farm
- 1 megawatt – supplied by rooftop solar from homes and businesses in the community
- 2 megawatt-hours – supplied by back-up battery
In Esperance, a new renewables hub is being constructed, bringing together solar and wind power to generate what is estimated to be up to 46 per cent of the electricity needed in Esperance.
Battery power to store wind energy
Just as solar batteries can store excess solar energy to use when the sun goes down, lithium-ion batteries can be used to store energy generated from wind too.
In Coral Bay, a 576 kilowatt / 343 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery system was added to the wind-based microgrid in 2021. This reduces the need for diesel power generation when the wind is not able to generate enough electricity.
The future of wind energy
As technology develops and the demand for more renewable energy sources grows, the wind industry is expected to continue to grow at a rapid rate between now and 2030.
New innovations are helping to create new opportunities to harness wind power. For example, in various locations across Australia, small wind turbines are being added to telecommunications towers. This means that the existing towers can be used to capture wind and generate renewable energy.
At Synergy, we’re continuing to explore the potential of wind energy and other renewable energy sources as part of WA’s intelligent energy future. To gain more understanding of how renewable energy generation resources like wind farms can support our transition to renewable energy, learn how a wind farm works and how they contribute to our energy mix.