The winds of change that swept the Baillieu government to power in Victoria could see an exodus of renewable energy producers from the state.
Wind farm developers yesterday warned that Victoria would lose investment due to a Coalition policy enforcing a 2km exclusion zone between houses and wind turbines unless residents agreed to a shorter distance.
“We think that’s an unnecessary impost that’s only imposed on wind farms,” said Warwick Forster, spokesman for Spanish energy giant Union Fenosa, which has three Victorian wind farms already approved and two more in the pipeline.
“There’s no doubt that it makes it a lot harder to propose wind farms in Victoria than it was previously.”
A survey of wind companies commissioned by the Clean Energy Council prior to the election estimated that between 50 and 70 per cent of proposed wind farms would be abandoned if the Coalition pursued its policy.
One of the latest wind projects under way is a two-turbine development at Leonards Hill, 105km northeast of Melbourne, where former state environment minister Gavin Jennings turned the first sod less than two months ago.
Described as a community-owned wind farm, it is nonetheless opposed by local resident Jan Perry, who says the turbines will be only 700m from her house.
“I’ve been on medication for the last five years just fighting this,” said Ms Perry, who is also president of the local anti-wind farm Landscape Guardians group.
“We’re all stressed out; it’s right at our front door.”
Though the Coalition’s planning changes will not be retrospective, Ms Perry still appealed to the new government to stop the project.
“I left Melbourne to live here out in the country,” she said. “I don’t want to go home to look at these things right on top of my house.”
Clean Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren said the 2km boundary was “totally arbitrary” and projects should continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis as they were interstate.