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Northern SA's Renewables

Mid North SA: leading Australia in renewable energy

The people of Mid North South Australia should be intensely proud of the fact that we are hosting the biggest concentration of new renewable energy in the nation. This region is showing how the fight against climate change and ocean acidification can be won while the local people benefit at the same time.

At the time of writing, mid-2014, in the Mid North we had 21 000 Watts of installed wind power per person. The top nation in the world, Denmark, had about 860. Also, the Mid North is probably the first region in Australia to become carbon-negative; that is, to be responsible for abating more carbon than its emissions.

In a country in which the government cannot see beyond coal – which, when burned, produces air pollution that kills millions of the world's people each year – where many of the people have been convinced that climate change is not happening and where others have accepted nonsensical scare-campaign claims about wind turbines being somehow harmful, mixed in with pride we have ignorance, delusion and apathy.

Written 2014/05/23, modified 2017/10/02
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David Clarke) – ©
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Mid North SA is a variably defined area that extends from around Rhynie (85 km north of Adelaide) in the south to around Jamestown (180 km north of Adelaide) in the north and from Burra in the east to Port Pirie in the west. It is about 80 km wide and is mainly in the northern Mount Lofty Ranges.

A wonderful achievement

Snowtown Stage 1, Mid North SA
Snowtown Wind Farm
On a hot, dusty, summer's day
Snowtown stages 1 and 2 have a total of 138 turbines with an installed capacity of 371MW.
Brown Hill Range, one of the Hallett wind farms, Mid North SA
BHR Wind Farm
Late winter
The 167 turbines of the four operating wind farms in the Hallett area have a total installed capacity of 351MW
Waterloo, Mid North SA
Waterloo Wind Farm
Sunrise in late autumn
As of late 2016 the 43 turbines of Waterloo stages 1 and 2 had a total installed capacity of 129MW
Clements Gap turbines with a low fog, Mid North SA
Clements Gap Wind Farm
Early morning in spring
There are 27 turbines at Clements Gap with a total installed capacity of 57MW
Hornsdale Wind Farm, from a drone
Early morning in early summer
The first stage of Hornsdale was finished in late 2016. It consited of 32 turbines with a total installed capacity of 100MW
Stages 2 and 3 were then contracted; Stage 2 being under construction. These would add a further 67 turbines and 209MW bringing the total for Hornsdale to 309MW.

Mid North South Australia is carbon-negative

The Mid North is probably the first region in the nation to abate more carbon than it releases into the atmosphere and this is due mainly to wind power!

Total emissions for Australia (about 2014) were 538 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses per year, so on average each Australian is responsible for 23 tonnes each year. Figuring on a population of 43,000 for the Mid North we can calculate the region's annual emissions at around one million tonnes.

On the other side of the equation our wind farms abated something like three million tonnes of greenhouse carbon dioxide each year by replacing fossil fuel-generated electricity with clean, renewable electricity.

All those who have had some part in supporting the construction of these environmental assets deserve a pat on the back. They will be able to tell their grandchildren that they did their bit to minimise the climate change disaster.

Data sources:

  1. Total emissions for Australia were published by the Department of the Environment in their National Greenhouse Inventory, December 2013
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  2. Population of the five council districts that make up the Mid North (Clare & Gilbert Valleys, Goyder, Northern Areas, Pt Pirie Regional, Wakefield Plains) were taken from Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.
  3. Abatement per megawatt-hour generated by wind farms was from a report by Sinclair Knight Merz: Wind Farm Investment, Employment and Carbon Abatement in Australia, for the Clean Energy Council;
  4. Energy generated by Mid North wind farms figures were from the Australian Energy Market Operator.

Mid North SA, with its wind farms, is showing what can be done

At the end of 2015 Australia had about 3 GW of installed solar PV power and about the same amount of installed wind power. There was also some bio-gas energy – mainly from land fill methane recovery – very little solar thermal, geothermal and wave energy, and no tidal energy development.

Australia's wind farms were generating about 9000 GWh of electricity each year and its solar was generating around half that (solar PV has about half the capacity factor of wind turbines).

The big new Snowtown Stage 2 Wind Farm, which I can see from near where I live, had recently been completed. It added 270 MW to Australia's renewable energy generating capacity and increased South Australia's installed wind power to 1475 MW; close to half of Australia's total at the time. In SA 890 MW, 60% of our wind power, was in the Mid North.

The Mid North's wind farms reduce Australia's greenhouse gas production by around three million tonnes each year from what it would have been if our power was still being generated by burning fossil fuels. This is a wonderful achievement; a great step toward taking on the climate change and ocean acidification problems.

The population of the five council districts in the Mid North is 43 000 so our wind farms were generating around 7200 Watts per Mid North resident. Average home power consumption per person in the Mid North was around 260 Watts.

In terms of installed wind power the Watts per person in the Mid North was 21 000, compared to Denmark (by far the leading nation in the world) which had about 860. Australia, as a whole, had about 117 Watts of installed wind power per person and was ranked about 15th among the world's nations.
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In a world that is being greatly damaged by climate change and in which the oceans are steadily becoming more acidic because of the carbon dioxide that they are being forced to absorb, this renewable energy development in our own back yard is something of which we, the people of the Mid North, should be intensely proud. Instead, because we are in what may be the slowest nation in the world to wake up to the climate change threat, rather than pride we have apathy, and among a significant number of people, ill-informed fear.

Local benefits

A local wind farm provides employment, especially during construction, but also some long-term jobs. During construction it brings work for local contractors and business for accommodation providers, cafes, delis, hotels, etc. (See Why Support Wind Power?) The farmers who host the turbines receive substantial additional income and wind farm operators in Australia almost always provide funding for local developments.

Unlike coal-fired power stations, which kill millions of people each year world wide and cause many more serious illnesses from their air pollution, the Mid North's wind turbines harm no one. In fact our wind turbines save lives by displacing coal-fired power stations. For example, one of Port Augusta's coal-fired power stations has been closed down and another only operates about half of each year, largely because of the electricity generated by the Mid North's wind farms.

The Mid North wind farms

The biggest is Snowtown which, including the recently finished second stage, has an installed capacity of 371 MW and is second in Australia after Macarthur in Victoria (420 MW). Interestingly, while Snowtown WF is not quite as big as Macarthur in terms of installed capacity, Snowtown is more productive in electricity generation; it generates more electricity than any other wind farm in Australia.

Coming next in the Mid North, and in Australia, is the Hallett group at 351 MW; (the third biggest wind farm in Australia if considered as one unit).

There are also Waterloo at 111 MW and Clements Gap at 57 MW.

The Mid North wind farms are among the most productive in Australia. While the weighted average capacity factor for SE Australia's wind farms is about 35%, the figure for those in the Mid North is close to 40%. (The weighted average takes into account not just the capacity factor of the wind farms but also the size of each.)

Update – late 2016

Not included in the calculations above was the Hornsdale Wind Farm and the second stage of Waterloo Wind farm.

In late 2016 the first stage of Hornsdale was completed and operating, with an installed capacity of 100MW. The second stage, another 100MW, was under construction and the third stage, 109MW, was contracted.

The second stage of Waterloo Wind Farm, 18MW, was operating.

News, August 2017

I recently heard that work had started on yet another wind farm between Jamestown and Burra, Willogoleche Wind Farm; another 32 state-of-the-art turbines.

Reality check

In a time when climate change and ocean acidification are obviously going to be disastrous for the planet and consequently the reduction of greenhouse emissions should be high on everyone's agendas my impression is that most Australians don't care much; at least not enough to try to do anything about the problem. Also, most people in the Mid North seem to me to be unaware of the exemplary nature of the renewable energy developments in their region.
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Snowtown: outstanding

Note the turbines on the ridge in the background.

Unlike most of the residents of the Mid North, who are largely apathetic about climate change and wind farms, the people of Snowtown are proud of their wind farm and are very pleased to make it a positive for their town.

They deserve to be proud of themselves; the world needs more people like them.

The completed Snowtown Wind Farm, first and second stages; 2014/06/11
Snowtown 1 + 2
Click on the image to view full size; use your browser's back arrow to come back to this page after viewing.

Catchy, simplistic, but true

"For every hour that a wind turbine operates there will be about one tonne less CO2 going into the atmosphere."

"A wind turbine operating for three hours reduces CO2 emissions as much as taking one car off the roads for a year."

"A wind turbine generates as much emissions-free electricity as about 2000 typical roof-top solar PV installations."

"Up to February 2014 Port Pirie, the only city in Mid North SA, had a total of 6MW of solar installations. These would generate about as much emissions-free electricity as one wind turbine."

The above statements apply to utility scale wind turbines (about 3 MW) operating in mainland Australia including in SA's Mid North at the average capacity factor of 35% seen in the National Electricity Market. The abatement figures are based on a report by Sinclair Knight Merz.

Similar, simple but true, statements are combined with turbine images on another page.

Turbine and message

Related pages

On this site

Base load electricity
Crystal Brook Energy Park Supporters
Elec. gen. methods compared
Fuels compared
Glossary of technical terms relating to wind power
South Australia's success with renewable power
Mid-North South Australia, leading the nation in renewable energy
Northern SA's renewables
Wind power in Australia
Impressive renewable energy developments in Australia
Pumped hydro energy storage

Climate change
Climate change disasters and the Australian government's actions
Greatest crime in history
Major threatened disasters compared
The end of coal
Killer coal
Coal seam gas: an environmental disaster
The Turnbull Australian Government

On the Internet

A glossary of the energy debate; The Conversation.

The big three Australian power generators see no future in coal

AGL's statement on the Liddell closure.
Energy Australia boss says there are much better options than keeping the old Liddell coal-fired power station running for a few more years.
Origin Energy boss regects coal


A wonderful achievement
Local benefits
Snowtown: Outstanding
The wind farms
Wind home
Wind home