The Brumby Government is under pressure to subject a massive proposed project containing 282 wind turbines – Victoria’s biggest – to environmental scrutiny amid increasing unrest from local residents.
Wind Power, the company behind a wind farm initially blocked over the orange-bellied parrot, is fighting claims the project will be detrimental to the nationally threatened striped legless lizard, the wedge-tailed eagle, the golden sun moth and the brolga, a crane common in northern Australia but vulnerable in Victoria.
The company said yesterday it had reduced the number of proposed turbines at the Stockyard Hill wind farm, west of Ballarat, to address concerns about the impact on the brolga.
Wind Power has written to Victorian Planning Minister Justin Madden stating that its preliminary work showed an environmental effects statement was not warranted.
The Pyrenees Shire Council has urged Mr Madden to order an environmental examination, given the magnitude of the project and the level of public concern about its impact.
Pyrenees Shire Mayor Lester Harris said last night the local community was divided about the project.
Although there had been minimal public objections to three smaller wind farms in the region, residents were concerned about the number of proposed turbines at Stockyard Hill and their visual impact.
“Our view, as a council, is anything with 282 turbines requires the most stringent examination of whatever conditions might need to apply,” Mr Harris said. “It is ludicrous to say that a wind farm of 282 turbines doesn’t require an environmental effects statement. There are a whole range of issues that need to be addressed.”
A spokeswoman for the Western Plains Landscape Guardians, Cathy Franzose, said residents were deeply concerned about the project’s impact on the landscape and the environment, particularly the brolgas.
Ms Franzose accused the company of failing to adequately consult with the community by refusing to hold a properly constituted public meeting to consider the project.
Mr Harris said he was prepared to have the council conduct a public meeting, but the company had expressed concern any public forum would be hijacked by the project’s opponents.
Ross Richards, engineer and community consultant for Wind Power, said the company had placed advertisements for residents to attend forums and no one had turned up.
Mr Richards said 60 land holders had signed on to have turbines on their properties.
“This wind farm alone should produce enough power to supply the equivalent of 16 per cent of Melbourne homes, or more than six times the homes in Ballarat, based on a long-term average and assumed capacity factor of 30 per cent,” Mr Richards said.
“It also represents an investment of about $1.5 billion, which will be a huge contribution to the local and regional economy.”
The wind farm, located between the towns of Beaufort and Skipton, would cover about 250sqkm.
“This project will be part of the solution to the problem of climate change,” Mr Richards said.
“It’s the sort of project that is necessary to help fulfil Kevin Rudd’s vision of 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020.”
11 July 2008
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