Plans for what would become one of the nation’s biggest wind farms are now in the hands of the South Australian Government.
Developer REpower has lodged a formal application with the state’s Development Assessment Commission to build the 199-turbine project on the state’s Yorke Peninsula.
The $1.3 billion wind farm known as the ‘Ceres project’ was first announced 18 months ago.
If approved, the project would occupy 18,000 hectares near Black Point, about 20 kilometres south-west of Ardrossan on the peninsula’s east coast.
The company says the turbines would have a combined maximum output of 600 megawatts, enough to power 225,000 homes, but would probably produce about 40 per cent of that.
Electricity would be fed into the Adelaide grid via underwater cables across Gulf St Vincent.
Project manager Peter Sgardelis says the nearest turbine to a house would be 1.3 kilometres away, further than guidelines require.
He says landholders stand to earn tens of thousands of dollars a year to let the turbines be built on their properties and more consultation with locals will be conducted in the coming months.
“We have 36 land owners. They have been with us for a long while and we’ve made all those agreements, those agreements are binding and they are pretty much looking forward to this project going ahead,” he said.
“Naturally, with all wind farms you get some opposition but we believe as our submission is released over probably the next month, we’ll be able to counter all that and show the research that we’ve done and put all the facts on the table.”
Mr Sgardelis says the chosen site is ideal for generating wind power.
“It’s spread over a massive distance so I think north to south is close to 20 kilometres,” he said.
“It’s cropping country and we believe it’s an excellent place to put a wind farm.
“When we say 600 megawatts, that’s the maximum that will go down those underground powerlines.
“At times you do hit 600 megawatts and that’s how these things go on to the grid because the grid is designed to take a maximum output.
“Naturally the wind doesn’t blow 100 per cent of the time but the capacity factor for this wind farm is in excess of 40 per cent.
“Average wind speed there measured over seven years… is over eight metres a second and the turbines we’re going to use are either 3.2 or 3.4 megawatt.”
Residents near the site say the project will generate significant local division.
The chair of the Black Point Progress Association, Kate Van Schaik, says community views are already polarised.
“Those that can see the negative impact of what’s happening in terms of the wind farm industry itself, then there’ll be others who will see the long term benefit,” she said.
“There’ll be quite extreme views.”
Tania Stock says the turbines will make it harder to fight fires from the air.
“The turbines will stand at 152 metres tall which is taller than the largest building in the Adelaide CBD,” she said.
John McFarlane will have eight turbines on his property and says he does not believe they have negative health impacts.
“They’ve been around for a long time, in Europe, and North America and Australia, India, China, all over the world, so I understand that just recently in the last few years people have talked about health problems with them, but I have never seen any evidence of that,” he said.
In a statement, Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says the project will become a “white elephant that will be embroiled in litigation.”
Senator Xenophon currently has a Bill before Parliament to introduce national standards on the level of noise created by wind turbines.
The Yorke Peninsula Council is withholding a decision on the project until councillors have seen the 1600-page development application.
Chief executive Andrew Cameron says while there is community concern about the loss of prime agricultural land, some landowners stand to benefit from the project.
“At the end of the day, the submission that council puts in, it must be based on planning arguments,” he said.
“We can’t get into the emotional side of it and unfortunately as we know wind farms can create a lot of emotion within communities.”
The State Opposition wants the proposal to go before a parliamentary committee before a final decision is made.
Liberal MP David Ridgway is a member of the Select Committee on Wind Farm Developments.
He says the committee should be given the chance to interview locals to gauge community views on the wind farm.
“I think it’s always awkward for the individuals and the smaller groups to if you like to challenge the big multi-national companies who have millions of dollars and expensive PR companies to promote their proposals,” he said.
“That’s why we have a parliamentary select committee where we ask for submissions, we ask for people to come and we will be going to Yorke Peninsula to take evidence.
“We’ve seen a number of developments where people are still concerned, we saw one at Burra recently rejected by the Council Development Assessment Panel on the basis of health affects.
“We have an independent non-partisan select committee. Our view is that that committee should do its work and report back to Parliament.”
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