Windlab’s involvement does not end at the development stage of a wind farm. We expect to maintain an ownership stake in many of the projects we develop and often manage those projects through construction and operations. Windlab puts community relations at the forefront of everything it does when developing a wind project. This is vital as a wind farm will be a part of a community’s infrastructure for 25 years or more.
A core emphasis in Windlab’s business philosophy is that Windlab should lead the industry in demonstrating fair and transparent community engagement processes and outcomes. For example the Coonooer Bridge Wind Farm located near Bendigo, Australia, is partly owned by landholders neighbouring the project. This is the first renewable energy project in the country with an ownership structure that includes the local farming community in this way. Windlab was awarded the Clean Energy Council Community Engagement Award in 2015 for this industry leadership and innovation. Windlab is constructing and developing other projects with similar local ownership benefits. In 2017, this innovative structure was repeated with the construction of Kiata Wind Farm, now also partly owned by the local community.
Community engagement must be tailored to the local community needs. Windlab is very active in Southern and East Africa where local community needs are fundamentally different to communities in Australia or North America. For example, Windlab successfully developed the Amakhala Emoyeni project in South Africa and the community engagement included the establishment of two Community Trusts that were provided direct ownership in the wind farm. This wind farm is now operational and Trust dividends are used to fund initiatives that positively impact the socio-economic status of the local region.
Wind energy can bring many benefits to land holders and their community. These include direct payments made to landowners, based on either the number of wind turbines placed on their land or the amount of power generated by the turbines. Their normal land use can continue and they have no financial risk.
Community benefits include jobs created during the construction phase and for the ongoing operations of the wind farm. In addition, property taxes and other payments can have substantial local economic benefits.
Fair Commercial Agreements
Wind turbines will be placed on landowners land only if a fair commercial agreement is reached. Whilst recognising that individual landowners often have differing concerns, Windlab aims to ensure that all landowners are treated in an honest, fair and equitable manner that provides reasonable compensation during development and if the project is successful, construction and operation.
Environmental and planning approvals
Wind turbines are sited only when environmental and planning approvals are gained. Aspects including noise, the impact on the natural environment (including the disruption of habitats, flora and fauna) and visual impact are carefully evaluated in detailed, independent expert studies which are considered and adjudicated upon by relevant authorities and governments.