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Wind farm approvals for five western region projects

Planning Minister Mathew Guy has defended the state government’s record on renewable energy after recently approving five of six pending western region wind farms before stricter new planning guidelines kick in today.

The only one to be refused a development plan by the minister was a 21-turbine project at Naroghid between Camperdown and Terang. Windfarm Developments had proposed to spread the towers over 600 hectares of grazing land, but several nearby residents waged a vigorous challenge, arguing that some turbines would be as close as 500 metres from houses.

Under the new stricter guidelines turbines must be at least two kilometres from dwellings.

Mr Guy told The Standard yesterday the geotechnical-engineering report provided by Windfarm Developments was not comprehensive enough.

“The company will have to come back with the required information in a renewed application which will be considered under the new guidelines,” he said.

“We have recently approved development plans for about 180 of the proposed 200 turbines for new wind farms in Victoria.

“It shows we have been getting on with assessing permits.

“Our department has devoted extra resources to handle the workload and I believe we’ve given the applications a good hearing.”

The five recent wind farm approvals are: Hawkesdale, 31 turbines; Mount Gellibrand, 116; Ryan Corner, Yambuk, 68; Salt Creek, 15, and Woolsthorpe, 20. Work on all those projects had to start by today to avoid coming under the new guidelines.

Mr Guy described criticism by Opposition MP Brian Tee this week about loss of jobs through wind farm restrictions as “silly”.

“Victoria’s guidelines are being copied by other states,” he said.

Mr Guy said about 14 other wind farm projects were in the pipeline for Victoria.

“A number are coming through to be considered before the end of the year,” he said.

“We are in regular contact with the companies.”

South-west Victoria is shaping up to be one of the nation’s leading wind farm regions with four already operating and the giant Macarthur project set to start producing next year.

The other new projects are due to come on stream in the next few years.