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Birds fly in face of wind plan  

Wetlands and a bird sanctuary next to the Werribee’s Western Treatment Plant appear safe from a Melbourne Water plan to put wind turbines on its properties.

A tender document lists an investigation naming 23 potential sites for the wind turbines, which includes 157,000 hectares of protected catchments.

Melbourne Water spokesman Ben Pratt said the authority was committed to achieving the twin targets of zero net greenhouse gas emissions and 100 per cent renewable energy usage by 2018.

Wind farms would help achieve these targets. However, Mr Pratt said the document listed Werribee’s Western treatment plant as “a site with reservations.”

“We acknowledge there are some potential issues with putting wind turbines there because of the bird sanctuary,” he said. “We can’t rule anything in or out at this stage.

“But if the feasibility study comes back and says there are some real issues with this site, then we would expect it would immediately be ruled out as an option.”

The wetlands are a seasonal home to thousands of local and migratory birds. Environmentalists fear wind turbines would result in the deaths of many birds caught up in the rotating blades.

Mr Pratt said Melbourne Water is among the top energy users in Victoria but had made significant in-roads on emissions reductions and renewable energy usage since 2000-01.

In 2005-06, the organisation’s emissions were 40 per cent less than the 2000-01 baseline, with further cuts to be reported this year.

These reductions have been achieved through projects such as the Eastern Green Energy development at the Eastern Treatment Plant, where the plant’s own power station uses biogases produced through the sewage treatment process to generate about 50 per cent of the plant’s electricity requirements.

A similar project at the Western Treatment Plant, in partnership with electricity company AGL, produced about 60 per cent of the plant’s energy requirements in the 2005-06 financial year.

“Wind-powered energy is obviously one of the more advanced alternative energy sources potentially available to us,”Mr Pratt said.

“This initial investigation is designed to help us assess what options might be available and feasible, and will, in the early stages, include an immediate ruling out of any option that does not meet social or environmental criteria.

“Any actual decisions or works are a long way down the track, but this is an important first step in the process.”

Of the 23 proposed sites for wind turbines, eight are ranked as primary options. They are the Eastern Treatment Plant and the reservoirs of Sugarloaf, Thomson, Upper Yarra, Greenvale, Yan Yean, Wallaby Creek and O’Shannassy.

By Denise Deason

Star News Group

16 October 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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