Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pacific Hydro Wind Farm Generates Tourist Dollars in Australia

In come the milling crowd

Pure white blades sigh as they slice through the air, momentarily interrupting rays of sun, before gracefully completing another mesmerising cycle.

It is another windy day on the top of Albany's coastal cliffs in Western Australia, where 12 modern wind turbines provide 65 per cent of the electricity to the town below, and cut annual greenhouse emissions by 77,000 tonnes.

A surprising addition to the scenery is a group of tourists who have just disembarked from their coach, cameras at the ready. But they are not here for the whales. It is the wind farm they have come to see.

The novelty of the white windmill forests is something that is attracting curious visitors in droves. At a time when climate change and renewable energy are concerns, it is not hard to understand why there is an interest.

The tourism industry has speedily caught on. Wind farms are marketed as must-see attractions where visitors can witness the production of renewable energy and learn about wind technology.

Most wind farms in Australia cater for tourists, providing viewing platforms and information booths. The wind farm in Albany has been operating since 2001 and has a network of paths around the base of the turbines, with boards with stories and facts.

Jon Berry, the manager of economic development at Albany Council, said the turbines had enhanced the value of the area.

"The combination of the wind farm and a spectacular coastal setting has made it the most popular tourist destination in Albany," he said.

"I think people also see them as symbols that we're doing something for the environment. [Visitors] are quite awe-inspired about the pure size of the machinery towering above them, and with blades the size of a Boeing 747 wing coming towards you it's a real 'wow' experience."

The Australian Wind Energy Association says it is the role wind farms play in reducing greenhouse gases that makes them more appealing than other forms of development.

It was this interest in green initiatives that convinced Tim Brady of Port Fairy, Victoria, that there was a market for wind-farm tours. Codrington farm, near Port Fairy, has been in Brady's wife's family since 1856, but in 2001 it gained 14 wind turbines and became Australia's largest (at the time), and Victoria's first, wind farm. An open day for the public in 2001 showed just how much interest there was.

"Thousands of people showed up. We were bowled over by the amount of people who came out to the country to have a look," Brady said.

Here is the full article.