REGION - Organisations across the Northern Grampians Shire are set to benefit from a community fund, established as part of the new RES Australia Wind Farm project being developed near Crowlands.
RES Australia is currently in discussions with both the Northern Grampians Shire Council and Ararat Rural City Council to establish an Ararat Wind Farm Community Fund, which will provide community level funding to support local projects and good causes.
It is expected $75,000 will be made available each year through the fund, which is offered on a voluntary basis by RES Australia for the operational life of the wind farm, with funding decisions to be made by a local committee.
This follows confirmation from the leading renewable energy developer that construction works on the first phase of the 75 turbine Wind Farm will begin next month.
The wind farm, situated about nine kilometres north east of Ararat, will comprise 75 turbines, 70 of which will be located in Ararat Rural City and five in Northern Grampians Shire.
The majority of the site is located between Warrak Road and the Pyrenees Highway, with a secondary site on the other side of the Pyrenees Highway, comprising 11 turbines, including the five in the Northern Grampians Shire.
The turbines will be located between nine and 17 kilometres from Ararat.
Work will progress in phases and begin on site at the north west side of the Pyrenees Highway and will involve creating a new site access point and the first phase of site access tracks and construction facilities.
Resurfacing of the junction at Woodlands Road and the Pyrenees Highway will also be undertaken.
Head of Development with RES Australia, Annette Deveson, said due to uncertainty arising from the Federal election and the potential that a further review of the Renewable Energy Target may be announced following the election, RES will be starting construction of the first phase of the works while still finalising some of the project's commercial arrangements.
"Construction of the wind farm will therefore progress in phases and the time scales for the start of the further phases, along with regular updates, will be released through community newsletters and the project website," Ms Deveson said.
"It is expected that the project will be fully commissioned during 2016."
Initially during the first phase of construction around 30 to 50 people will be employed on site, however, Ms Deveson said once full construction works begin at the wind farm it is expected around 200 people will be employed for the 24 months over the course of the development.
"We are also looking at 10 to 15 ongoing jobs, operating and maintaining the site and the turbines and monitoring what is going on," she said.
Ms Deveson said once operational, the Ararat Wind Farm will make a significant contribution to reducing Australia's dependence on fossil fuels.
It will provide clean, green electricity equivalent to the needs of approximately 123,000 average Victorian homes.
Ms Deveson said the response of the wider community continues to be positive, with landowners in both the Ararat and Northern Grampians municipalities continuing to offer their support to the project.
"We have also been doing our best to work with council, they've been involved with signing off all the planning conditions, and we've taken all their views into account through that process," she said.
Ms Deveson said RES's priority was to minimise the impact of any disruption to the community during construction.
"During the first phase of works there will be a small increase in traffic on the Pyrenees Highway and roads around the site to allow for the delivery of earth moving equipment and materials," she said
"There will be no over dimensional load deliveries - required for the delivery of wind turbine towers, nacelles and blades - until later phases of the construction works."
Residents who wish to find out more about the construction plans for the wind farm are invited to a community information day on September 4 at the Ararat Masonic Centre, 82 High Street, Ararat, between 12 noon and 8pm.