Energy company Acciona has rejected criticism from Mortlake district property owners it was trying to hide noise data on a proposed wind farm project.
It defended its right not to disclose raw data because it was confidential commercial information and instead said industry practice was to release only a scientific summary of the information for public scrutiny.
Acciona has also put itself on the front foot to counter fears the $300 million, 51-turbine Mortlake south project would cause substantial roads damage similar to what happened around the giant Macarthur project recently.
Acciona built a 128-turbine farm at Waubra, near Ballarat, and recently completed a 31-turbine project at Gunning, NSW.
“We’ve had no issues with roads with these two projects,” Acciona’s director of engineering, construction and operations, Brett Wickham told The Standard.
“Our company builds, owns and operates wind farms. We can’t afford to over-promote and under-deliver.
“The Mortlake south project will bring 120 to 140 jobs during construction and 14-16 permanent jobs afterwards.”
Acciona already has a state government planning permit under old guidelines which allow turbines to be closer than two kilometres to homes and must prepare a more detailed development plan for further approval before construction can start.
Mr Wickham expect the development plan to be ready for submission within six weeks.
Part of the plan preparation involves collection of wind speed and background noise data — an issue that has triggered conflict with some property owners who arranged to collect their own data, hoping to compare it with company figures.
However, the company told them its equipment had broken down at the same time as the private testing.
Moyne Shire Council recently voted to request the company and the Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) supply raw data rather than a summary version.
This is unlikely, as Mr Wickham said it was commercially sensitive information.
“It would be equivalent to handing over the entire revenue of the wind farm,” he said.
“We don’t hand it over and DPCD does not request it.
“Independent experts make the assessments. They are not here to bend the rules.
“The overall report is peer reviewed by the DPCD.”
He said monitoring had to be done pre- and post- construction at the same locations and if there were serious issues for residents adjustments could be made to turbine noise at night.
Mr Wickham said the breakdown of testing equipment near Mortlake was “purely a technical failure” that was not detected until later.
“There’s no conspiracy theory,” he said.
When asked about why the close-knit farming area south of Mortlake had been chosen, Mr Wickham said it provided good reliable wind and was close to a supply link at the Terang substation.
“The turbine towers will be about 20 metres shorter than Macarthur and the rotors will be slightly smaller,” he said.
“We believe it will be a good wind farm.”