The Portland Wind Project in Victoria might be extra small but it proves the versatility of wind technology.

It’s a terrific location for a wind project, about 600 metres from a cliff that drops away to Bass Strait on the left and the Great Australian Bight on the right, but is it a bit extravagant to erect one turbine to cover your electricity needs? With nearby neighbours like Pacific Hydro’s Cape Sir William Grant and Cape Bridgewater wind farms, Wannon Water program manager carbon neutrality Murray Dancey figured, if they can do it, why can’t we?

The team at government-owned water corporation Wannon Water started thinking about converting to clean energy in 2013, with first options including solar and small wind turbines. For wind to be a contender, the team was advised to think big. But the manufacturers who turn out the huge machines that power wind farms don’t really operate in the market of supplying single units, they were told, so they might think to try German manufacturer Enercon, who Dancey was told is a supplier to large projects that also likes to talk to small projects. “They were really supportive from the early days,” he says.

The E-48 Enercon machine Wannon installed this year is a perennial favourite of smaller scale projects, with many thousands plugged in around the world. Dancey says the turbine can turn out 2.5GWh of electricity a year – enough to offset all of the energy requirements for nearby Portland’s water and wastewater treatment – thanks to the windy site. “We’re getting a good yield from it,” he says. Depending on the outlook for power prices, he expects payback between six and nine years.

The 800kW unit has a 48m rotor diameter and the 50m tower was manufactured using Australian steel at Keppel Prince, in Portland. 

Wannon Water is also a keen investor in solar, with 100kW of PV on its central office and 250kW on a water treatment plant, both in Warrnambool, and 100kW on a water treatment plant inland at Hamilton.

South-west Victoria is Australia’s wind capital, but not everyone’s crazy about living near extended arrays of turbines. For Dancey, it helps that Wannon Water had the opportunity to connect the benefits of a turbine directly with the local community. “Being a government owned corporation, any savings made help reduce costs to our ratepayers, our customers,” he says. “That’s the message to our customers: our investment in renewable energy translates into benefits for them.”

Murray Dancey figured if his part of the country is a favourite location for wind developers then Wannon Water might as well get in on the action.