December 6, 2011

Kojonup gets wind farm despite bluster

Rhianna King, Farm Weekly, 6 December 2011

The Kojonup shire council has given the go-ahead for the first stage of a $400 million wind farm to be built in the region.

At a special meeting last week the council unanimously approved stage one of the Flat Rocks Wind Farm, which is to be built by developer Moonies Hill Energy.

The first stage will see 30 turbines and an electrical substation built in the Kojonup shire.

Another 44 turbines are proposed to be built in the Broomehill-Tambellup shire, but Moonies withdrew its application to the council in August after it was revealed the shire’s town planning laws restricted the production of electricity on farm land.

The project was first mooted in 2009 and has been met with widespread opposition from farmers in the Kojonup shire, who are concerned about the potential health effects.

The residents who oppose the scheme recently launched a website, as part of their campaign for a moratorium on the wind farm proposal.

Farmer Roger Bilney, whose property line sits 150 metres from the proposed turbines, said he was disappointed the council decided to go ahead with the project.

He and other neighbours had called on the council to wait until further planning and health issues were resolved.

“I’m really disappointed we couldn’t win the call for a moratorium,” he said.

“This would have given ample time for questions to be resolved, and changes implemented.”

The residents are concerned about the so-called wind turbine syndrome, the name given to the adverse health effects believed to be caused by both audible and low frequency sound waves.

A Federal Parliamentary Senate report in June recommended research be urgently carried out to investigate the potentially damaging health effects from wind farms.

The majority report called for tougher rules on noise and new laws on how close wind farms can be built to houses.

The Senate findings were raised by concerned community members at last week’s special meeting in Kojonup, which was held in a public hall in order to accommodate the large number of people who attended.

Several members of the public called on the council to reject the proposal.

Shire chief executive officer Stephen Gash explained the statutory environment and guidelines under which the shire assessed the application.

It had been referred to the relevant planning and health research agencies and incorporated the relevant Senate committee recommendations.

Shire president Jane Trethowan said the council offered no apologies for the time taken to consider the matter, as it was an issue that had created significant community debate.

Kojonup councillors recently met with representatives from Moonies, who said the first stage would be worth between $100m and $150m and generate between 40 to 60mW of power.

Moonies also estimate the wind farm would create 100 jobs, add $10m to the economy during construction and $35m during operation.

Moonies Energy director Sarah Rankin said the group was pleased with the unanimous decision from council.

She expected construction on the wind farms to start in 2013 and for the turbines to be connected to the electricity grid from 2014.

“We’re very pleased with the decision and we’re now progressing with the commercial arrangements, securing access to the grid and financing the project,” she said.

“We’re pretty confident we can make our timelines but we have a lot of work to do.”

URL to article: