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A $400 million wind farm will be built in Victoria’s Western District six years after receiving planning approval from the state government.
Spanish company Acciona Energy said the 63-turbine plant at Mount Gellibrand, 25 kilometres east of Colac, would generate enough power to run about 88,000 homes.
Construction of the 189-megawatt clean energy plant, scaled down from an initial proposal of 116 turbines, will start in March.
The wind farm needed final government approval before construction could begin, but was not subject to new planning laws announced by the Baillieu government in August giving households a right of veto over turbines within two kilometres of their home. The revised laws apply to new applications only.
Acciona Energy director of generation Brett Wickham said the farm would create about 200 jobs during construction and 16 ongoing positions once it was operating.
He said up to 10 of the 149-metre turbines would be built within two kilometres of homes and could have been affected if the plant had been proposed under the new planning regime.
“The project would have been less viable because these projects are marginal and essentially we could have less turbines to pay off what is a significant investment in [power] grid connection and other things,” Mr Wickham said.
Victoria has about 400 wind turbines, with another 1100 at various stages of development.
Randall Bell, president of wind farm opponents the Victorian Landscape Guardians, said there was a local community group opposed to most plants proposed in Victoria, but not at Mount Gellibrand.
“As far as I know there was effectively no local community as we would normally see it,” he said.
Mr Wickham said Acciona was yet to decide whether it would go ahead with three other wind farm proposals – at Newfield, Berrimal and Mortlake South – granted planning permits under the previous Labor government.
He said the changes to planning laws, which include a ban on wind farms at tourist sites such as the Macedon Ranges and the Great Ocean Road, meant it was “probably more beneficial for us to be looking in other states” for future projects.
Acciona owns three wind farms operating in Australia, including the 128-turbine Waubra wind farm north-west of Ballarat, where some residents say turbines have caused health problems including heart disease, migraines and chronic sleep deprivation. The claims led to the establishment of the Waubra Foundation, which has fought wind farm developments across the country.
Health and welfare groups have rejected claims turbines cause illness. The Climate and Health Alliance, a coalition of 20 groups including the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Australian Psychological Society, this week released a statement that there was no credible evidence in peer-reviewed scientific journals linking turbines to illness.
Documents obtained by environment group Friends of the Earth show NSW health officials dismissed claims by the Waubra Foundation and told the state’s ministers there was no evidence of “wind turbine syndrome”.
The National Health and Medical Research Council is due to release a full review of scientific literature on wind farms and health by mid-year.
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