Wind farms in a nutshell

Renewable energy from the wind is one of the best climate solutions we have.

Polluters burning coal and gas are unleashing climate destruction on our plants, animals and ecosystems. These climate impacts like extreme floods and heat waves are happening in more places and getting worse, putting the wildlife and communities we love at grave risk.

But creating more wind energy to power our lives means that we can phase out coal and gas, and protect our communities and wildlife. 

Some of the proposed offshore wind zones in Australia would create enough renewable energy to power 3.4 million homes on their own!

Wind energy is Australia’s cheapest form of new electricity generation. While gas prices soar, record volumes of wind and solar generation are driving down the wholesale price of electricity, which should be passed on to households come 1 July 2024.

Well-designed wind farms in our communities are critical to creating a brighter future for all of us.

Wind farms and energy

How much energy do wind farms create?

It depends on the number of wind turbines and how windy the site is, but wind farms can create a great deal of energy.

The offshore wind zone proposed in the Illawarra could power up to 3.4 million homes. Dr. Saul Griffith has also pointed out that the offshore wind zone could mean that every single home in the Illawarra is powered by renewable energy, not climate-wrecking coal and gas.

In Victoria, the very small Hepburn Wind Farm powers around 2,000 homes, while the much bigger Stockyard Hill Wind Farm powers around 425,000 homes. A wind farm under construction near Geelong will generate 9% of Victoria's total electricity demand, which can power 765,000 homes.

How reliable is energy from wind farms?

Wind is an incredibly reliable energy source.

At times of peak performance – like when wind energy reached 146% of South Australia’s demand in 2022 – excess energy can be sent elsewhere via the grid or stored in batteries for future use. The reverse is true, too. When performance drops, electricity can be imported from the national grid or discharged from a battery.

With gas, losing one generator can mean losing half its output. Wind farms can handle breakdowns better because they have many small generators that are unlikely to all go offline at once. Drops in wind generation can be predicted, unlike coal and gas plants that are prone to sudden shutdowns and provide zero warning to grid operators.

From 28 January 2023 to 20 January 2024, wind provided 15% of Australia’s electricity and this will only grow as more wind farms are built.

How affordable is energy from wind farms?

Very affordable.

Right now wind power is the cheapest source of large-scale renewable energy in Australia. Meanwhile, the price of gas for households continues surging up.

A record-breaking volume of renewable energy generation, led by wind and solar, in late 2023:

  • drove the wholesale price of electricity down 24%
  • cut the use of more expensive coal-fired power
  • and is expected to lead to cuts on 1 July 2024 when the next round of price-setting for household energy bills is due.

As more wind and solar projects are constructed, bringing more wind and solar energy into the system, we can expect this trend of cheaper electricity for households to continue.

Wind farms and wildlife

Are wind farms good for animals and marine life?

Short answer: Yes, wind farms are a key part of the solution to climate change, making them essential to our native wildlife and marine life’s survival. Wind farms can and must be well-designed to coexist with and mitigate their impact on wildlife.

Long answer Climate impacts like acidifying oceans, rising sea levels and extreme heat waves are putting threatened species at grave risk.

Climate destruction, driven by burning coal and gas, is a key driver of extinction in Australia. Conserving nature demands that we phase out coal and gas. Wind farms generate renewable energy to replace coal and gas in powering our lives, providing critical relief for our wildlife.

Just like any development, impacts on native plants and animals must be front of mind when renewable energy projects are being planned. Wind farms must be well-designed to avoid and mitigate impacts on plants, animals and ecosystems.

Research shows that with thorough environmental assessments and planning and mitigation, the overall risk of wind farms to marine mammals can be low.

The same cannot be said for the destructive nuclear, coal and gas industries, which have long histories of harming wildlife and ecosystems in Australia and across the world. A US study showed that compared to wind energy, fossil fuel power is responsible for more than 34 times the rate of bird fatalities.

Australia’s plants and animals will have no hope in a world that’s 2 degrees hotter, so, well-planned wind farms are critical to phasing out coal and gas and providing wildlife with a liveable future. We can achieve this with strong, consistent planning laws from our governments to ensure every wind turbine is carefully managed and placed where harm to our wildlife is mitigated.

"The reality is offshore wind has been operational for decades with active proponents mapping and mitigating any sort of impacts on marine life. Many studies [point] to how proponents can minimize impacts on marine life to ensure that offshore wind projects are not sited in particularly sensitive areas." – Macquarie University senior lecturer Madeline Taylor.

What’s the go with wind farms and whales?

Short answer: Well-designed wind farms can coexist with whales while generating renewable energy to create a safer climate and protect whales from worsening climate impacts like warmer temperatures and food loss.

“There is not a shred of scientific evidence that whales are affected at all by offshore wind farms.” Dr Mark Diesendorf, University of New South Wales

Long answer: Wind farms have been in operation for over four decades (offshore wind farms for over three decades) and unlike offshore gas and oil, there’s no evidence that wind farms kill whales.

Everything we do in our oceans has an impact, so wind farms must be well designed so that they can coexist with whales, ways to do this include:

  • Fully assessing threats for each project
  • Choosing the right location and steering clear of critical habitat for threatened and migratory species like the Humpback whale and Southern right whale.
  • Implementing best practice, like setting speed limits for boats, increasing monitoring for whales and selecting materials that have lower levels of noise pollution.

The projects we must stop to protect our whales and marine life are the massive offshore gas proposals that would lead to:

  • greenhouse gas emissions skyrocketing
  • hundred-kilometre-long underwater pipelines cutting through marine habitat
  • the risk of big oil spills in our oceans.

If an oil spill occurred at Woodside’s proposed Scarborough and Browse projects off the coast of Western Australia, 54 threatened animal species are at a direct risk of being impacted, including Blue pygmy whales and Humpback whales.

Climate damage, driven by burning fossil fuels like gas is pushing whales to extinction. Warmer temperatures mean less ice cover and food for Humpback and Blue pygmy whales when they migrate to Antarctica in the summer, and uncomfortably hot breeding grounds when they move to Australia's tropical waters in the winter.

Wind farms are so much safer for whales, and generate renewable energy that can displace fossil fuels and protect whales from the impacts of warmer temperatures, acidifying oceans and rising sea levels.

What’s the go with wind farms and birds?

Birdlife Australia says climate change is emerging as the greatest threat to Australia’s birds, and advocates for well-designed wind farms to mitigate the impacts on birds.

One study in the US estimated the rate of bird deaths per Gigawatt hour across a range of energy sources and concluded that fossil fuel and nuclear power were responsible for greater bird fatalities than wind power.


It’s a sad reality that birds regularly fly into tall structures, like communication towers, power lines and buildings. There are proven, effective ways for wind farms to live alongside birds, including:

  • Spacing wind turbines further apart so that birds have more space and find it easier to navigate through
  • Painting turbine blades black or with a pattern can see and distinguish them. A Norwegian study found this can reduce bird collision fatalities by 72%.

Climate destruction is a much greater threat to the survival of all our birds, so the renewable energy generated from wind farms provides a net benefit for our avian friends.

Can noise from offshore wind farms have any impact on marine life?

Short answer: Noise from wind farms is safe for marine life, but the construction phase can temporarily or permanently shoo away certain species like dolphins.

Long answer: When wind farms are in operation they create less underwater noise than ships and studies show that this level of noise pollution is unlikely to reach dangerous levels. Before construction, offshore wind surveys are conducted and they use soundwaves to scan the seabed. This is much quieter than offshore oil and gas surveys that penetrate several kilometres into the earth to find oil and gas for drilling. Installing wind farms does create percussive noises that can cause marine life like dolphins to move away temporarily. But unlike oil and gas, there is no noisy drilling into the seabed for wells or risk of oil spills.

“Things like porpoises or dolphins, they may move out of that area while you’re installing the wind farms, but then the longer-term picture: in some areas, they never come back, in some they come back in larger numbers than before.”

– Rob Deaville, Zoological Society of London’s 's Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme

How can offshore wind farms boost biodiversity?

Wind farms generate renewable energy, creating a safer climate critical for all nature to thrive.

They can also provide direct benefits to wildlife in the area where they are built. The introduction of wind farms into waters can create new habitat, known as the ‘artificial reef effect’.

A 2023 study from Aberystwyth University in the U.K. found that the deposits of rocks and boulders that protect the foundations of offshore wind turbines are creating new habitat for European lobsters.

“It [offshore wind farms] can actually attract animals and it can increase abundance and diversity.” Dr Claire Szostek, ecosystem services specialist from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory on the artificial reef effect.

Wind farms and sustainability

How long do wind turbines last?

Wind turbines are designed to last for about 20-25 years and wind towers can stand for decades. A 2023 report from the Clean Energy Council shows that some Australian wind farms are being built to have a minimum lifespan of 30 years. Once wind turbines reach end-of-life, they are decommissioned and recycled.

Can wind turbines be recycled? What materials are turbines made of?

Short answer: Wind turbines are about 90% recyclable. Our challenge is finding practical ways to repurpose and recycle the blades at scale or finding a more sustainable material to build the blades with.

Long answer: The tower, gearbox, rotor, bearings, hydraulics and generator, contain a large amount of steel or steel derivatives, as well as copper and aluminium. There is a well-established recycling process for these materials in Australia.

A solution is needed to recycle the blades which are made of materials like glass fibre that are hard to break down, efficiently at scale. In Ireland, Poland and the United States, blades have been repurposed as bridges and research has looked into repurposing blades as electricity poles.

Research is underway to discover how blades can be made from recyclable materials, like softer plastics that can be melted down and recycled. An American company is recycling wind turbine blades into panels, ties and pellets for use in construction. A French recycling company is researching how to recycle the blades for use in cement.

Wind farms and cost

Who pays for wind farms?

Short answer: Private developers, but there are government initiatives that can assist.

Long answer: According to the Australian Government, private developers cover all costs of wind farms, including environmental assessments, construction, decommissioning and recycling. To ensure taxpayers are protected, the government requires financial security (such as a bank guarantee) from the developer to ensure the costs and expenses related to offshore infrastructure liabilities, such as cost of decommissioning are paid by industry and not by the government.

The Australian Government’s green bank, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, provides investment to wind farms and the Capacity Investment Scheme provides revenue underwriting for wind and solar.