The biggest wind farm in the southern hemisphere will only be built on King Island with the blessing of that community.
Hydro Tasmania yesterday detailed the $2 billion TasWind project, which will capitalise on the state’s roaring forties winds.
Over the next three months the state-owned energy company will try to win over the island’s 1565 residents to build what would be Tasmania’s largest single infrastructure project.
“When you look at wind farms around the world they don’t get very far without strong community support,” Hydro chairman David Crean said.
“At the end of that time there should be no doubt whether they’re for or against the project, and we need strong support from the community for this to go ahead.”
Initial reaction was encouraging – of 200 people who turned up to the first community meeting, Mr Crean said only one was opposed.
King Island Council is keen on upgrades flagged for its roads, port and air services, as well as the obvious economic benefits.
However, Mayor Greg Barrett also conceded that such a large-scale project must be carefully weighed up as it would have “an impact on every resident and visitor to the island”.
The wind farm also appears to have rare tripartite support of the Tasmanian Parliament.
Premier Lara Giddings said she hoped that would last if the project went ahead, with a tentative start date of 2019.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done now to make this project happen, but you’ve also got to bring the community with you, which is why you make these announcements at these early stages,” Ms Giddings said.
The Liberals came out in strong support, but the Greens were more cautious.
The impact of such a large-scale project on local and migratory birds has already been raised. There’s particular concern about the orange-bellied parrot, a critically endangered species.
Birdlife Tasmania convener Eric Woehler will meet TasWind officials to raise such concerns in what he described as the first step in a long process.
“With some careful placement and good scientific knowledge it is possible to minimise the number of birds killed, but it’s very hard to reduce that number to zero,” Dr Woehler said.
If built, the 200 three-megawatt turbines would take up 12 to 15 per cent of the island that is 64 kilometres long and 27 kilometres across at its widest point.
Power would be sold to the mainland, via a one-way undersea cable connected near the Victorian coastal city of Geelong.
Hydro intends to pay landowners who lease property for the turbines, as well as close neighbours.
Chief executive Roy Adair said it would also set up a community fund “so everyone on the island will benefit”.
The project would be a joint venture in line with Hydro’s Woolnorth wind farm, of which it retains a 25 per cent stake, but Mr Crean anticipates strong investor interest.
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