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Penshurst split over turbines proposal

Divisions over a proposed wind farm continue to run deep in Penshurst as developers step up their efforts to gain local support.

Earlier this year Res Australia announced plans to build up to 200 turbines near the community, with technical assessments and feasibility studies now being prepared for presentation at a second project open day in October.

Keith Staff, who retired to Penshurst from Melbourne with his wife Maureen in 2008, is president of the newly formed Southern Grampians Landscape Guardians (SGLG).

He insists the group is not opposed to renewable energy but simply wants the “massive industrial development” planned by Res to be kept well away from their homes.

“The major concern about this proposal is that it’s simply too big,” he said.

Mr Staff estimated about half of Penshurst’s population was opposed to the wind farm.

“Our group has about 30 members, and I’m seriously thinking about getting a petition together to ascertain even more the general feeling we already perceive,” he said.

Res held one-on-one consolations with residents in late July, a measure developer Simon Kerrison said was intended to address community queries.

“We were aware that some people were raising some concerns about the wind farm so it was just to meet with them to talk about what their concerns were so we can take those into account when we’re updating for the second open day,” he said.

Southern Grampians Shire mayor Marcus Rentsch, himself a Penshurst resident, welcomed the state government’s recent appointment of a wind farm liaison officer to work through planning conditions for new projects with councils and communities.

“I guess we’ll never ever be able to allay all the concerns because it certainly changes the landscape ? they’re very large towers and blades,” he said.

“I think there are concerns, for sure, but I think overall people realise that we have to take on board alternative sources of generating electricity.

“Those who are against (the wind farm) have certainly come out and made their position pretty clear, but I think there’s a very quiet majority who realise that we just can’t rely on what we’ve always done.”

Mr Kerrison said Res believed Penshurst residents were generally supportive of its plans.

“With every project some people have concerns, but once we relay the information we’ve gathered over the last nine months or so and once we show them the design of the wind farm, hopefully a lot of those concerns will have been allayed,” he said.

AGL and Meridian Energy last week signed contracts for the $1 billion Macarthur wind farm, a 140-turbine project to become the southern hemisphere’s largest.