Pac Hydro winds down Local wind project to continue, despite ruling, but no new projects envisaged in Victoria
Pacific Hydro has vowed it will press on with plans for Stage Four of the Portland Wind Energy Project, at Cape Nelson North and Cape Sir William Grant, despite the Victorian government gazetting new planning regulations which the industry and environmentalists have charged will stifle development.
However, the wind energy company made its displeasure clear, vowing that only projects already approved would continue.
“Under the new guidelines, Pacific Hydro does not envisage pursuing any new project developments in Victoria,” general manager Lane Crockett said.
The Victorian Government will block the construction of new wind farms within five kilometres of a major regional centre, including Portland, a decision that has angered environmentalists and wind energy companies.
Significant changes to the rules governing the construction of wind farms in Victoria were gazetted this week. This five-kilometer boundary change had not previously been mooted.
Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy has amended local government planning schemes and state planning laws to put them in line with a Coalition election promise to create wind farm barred zones.
Formalising a set-back policy that stops the construction of wind farms within two kilometres of houses without the consent of residents, the government is understood to be responding to complaints about noise, visual quality and possible health effects from the rotation of the giant blades.
“We are concerned that the Bailleau Government has yet to properly identify the issue or problem that they are trying to solve,” Mr Crockett said. “We accept their right to honour their election promise; however, thus far they have not clearly articulated the rationale or identified any independent analysis that underpins these changes to the planning scheme.”
The final Portland layout proposes a total of 27 generators, reduced from the maximum 58 allowed across the two sites.
Of those 27 now proposed, 11 at Cape Nelson North are proposed to increase in height to 126 metres while at the same time moving from the top of the sand dunes down onto the grazing land, neutralising their increased height in the landscape.
At Cape Sir William Grant, Pacific Hydro now proposes 16 generators.
“This decision, intended to appease a handful of anti-wind farm advocates, will play out badly for the government,” Victorian Friends of the Earth spokesman Cam Walker said.
“The majority of Victorians want action on climate change and understand that we must speed up our transition to low carbon energy sources like wind. This policy will send investment and jobs interstate, and rural councils and landowners will miss out on the substantial income that comes with the development of wind farms”.
Clean Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren said approximately $3 billion in investment would be lost to Victoria as a result of its new planning policy.
Opponents of Victorian wind farms this week raised fresh new health issues. Dr Andja Mitric-Andjic, a GP practising in Daylesford, has publicised her concerns about sleep deprivation and other symptoms occurring in her patients and her family, who live near the community-owned two-turbine wind farm developed at Leonard’s Hill, near Daylesford.
Anti-wind farm activist group the Waubra Foundation says Victorian children and the elderly are becoming extremely unwell by staying in their homes, with continued exposure to operating turbines. A foundation spokesperson said some families in Cape Bridgewater are trapped because they cannot afford to buy houses elsewhere and cannot sell their present homes.
An allied group, the Victorian Landscape Guardians, also backed the government’s move.
“Sadly, for many landscapes such as Cape Bridgewater and Bald Hills, it is too late,” they said. “Despite this recognition by the Baillieu Government the prospect remains that, with carbon tax-sourced funding and Federal Government subsidies, the Victorian landscape could still become an industrialised pin cushion of 150-metre high wind turbines.”
Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said the government altered the planning rules by stealth.
Mr Tee believes that Planning Minister Guy should have brought in legislation if he wanted to block wind farm development.
“This is going to have serious consequences,” he said. “He hasn’t got the balance right and the cost is going to be paid by the environment.”
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