The $175m proposed Allendale East wind farm near Mount Gambier has collapsed following an adjoining landowner winning an appeal against the 46-turbine project.
The landmark ruling is believed to be the first time a court has upheld an appeal against wind farms based on visual amenity.
The decision — handed down on Monday — could have long-term ramifications on the expansion of the wind turbine industry in Australia.
Considered to be the largest single project in Grant District Council’s history, the wind farm — covering 10.7 square kilometres — was expected to meet the needs of about 43,000 households and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 181,568 tonnes annually.
Eight Mile Creek dairyfarmer Richard Paltridge lodged an appeal with the state’s Environment, Resources and Development Court against the decision by Grant District Council’s independent planning assessors.
He was the only appellant in the case.
Mr Paltridge declined to comment about the court’s ruling yesterday.
The wind farm — proposed by Acciona Energy — was expected to create 50 construction jobs and a further 11 highly-specialist full-time jobs.
Acciona Energy has yet to rule out lodging an appeal with the Supreme Court.
“Acciona is reviewing the decision in detail and considering its options,” a spokesperson said yesterday.
Describing the decision as “extremely disappointing”, a spokesperson said the ruling had stunned the company.
“The company is deeply concerned that — despite preferring Acciona’s expert testimony in regard to noise, infrasound, and health — the court’s decision to overturn the original approval based on visual amenity could have ramifications for every future wind project in South Australia,” a spokesperson said.
“The proposed Allendale Wind Farm proposal is a world class project that would have delivered substantial economic and environmental benefits to the South East and beyond.”
While Grant District Council chief executive officer Russell Peate said council had yet to rule out appealing the decision to the Supreme Court, he said this action was “unlikely”.
But he said Acciona Energy could also lodge an appeal.
Speaking to The Border Watch yesterday, Mr Peate said he was surprised by the decision given the company’s extensive public consultation that was the most comprehensive of any developer in the past 10 years.
“It is a major development and it is a significant court decision that in my view will have ramifications and will set a precedent for wind farms throughout South Australia and indeed Australia,” Mr Peate said.
“I am not aware of any other wind farm development that has been refused through the courts due to visual amenity — the grounds for refusal had nothing to do with health or noise associated with the wind farm.”
He said council would “formally” consider its position at its next full meeting.
But Rob Spehr — a member of the Concerned Residents Group formed against the wind farm — said he was ecstatic with the news.
He said many residents and adjoining landholders were celebrating the ruling.
While arguing the group was not against wind farms, he said multinational companies should not be allowed to place these farms “willy-nilly”.
“Wind farms should be classified as heavy industry,” said Mr Spehr, who explained 100 residents signed a petition and up to 60 people submitted statutory declarations.
He said the residents feared the development would cause land values to plummet, ruin the visual landscape with the towering turbines and create noise problems.
“We are also disappointed that council did not have an unbiased view,” Mr Spehr said.
Handing down his judgment, Judge Jack Costello concluded that the introduction of 46 turbines into the landscape of the locality would be seen as “incongruous”.
“In terms of their height, scale and the number of turbines, it will introduce additional, prominent and foreign elements into the locality which will detract from the existing character and level of visual amenity to an unacceptable degree,” Judge Costello said.
But the judge said there was no “meaningful evidence” to support the arguments surrounding noise, health, electromagnetic interference and flora/fauna.
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