At a Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council Development Assessment meeting on 9 August 2013 an application from the Waterloo Wind Farm operator Energy Australia to delete wording to its Waterloo Stage 2 development (DA 433/0140/12) was approved.
The deleted wording – just nine little words – referred to the turbine model and make (Vestas V90 3.0MW) proposed for the additional six turbines planned for the Waterloo Range south of the existing 37 turbines.
The Development Assessment Panel meeting which approved the extension was held at Clare on 14 June 2013 and, therefore, begs the question why this variation in the wording was not included in time to have been considered at that meeting.
The decision to allow the deletion of wording and, thereby, give the company flexibility in its choice of turbine type, appears to rest largely on Council’s legal advice that the actual generators themselves were not a development issue.
Acousticians, generally, would agree that the more powerful a turbine, the greater the noise level it would produce, therefore, turbine model is critical in noise modelling and prediction – and, noise is most definitely a development issue!
The developer, in its argument requesting the deletion of the words binding it to the Vestas turbine, is having it both ways stating that restriction to a specific model of generator, “does not have a legitimate planning purpose” and then stating that, “Noise is one of the key planning issues of any proposed wind energy development”.
Clearly, the model of turbine and the noise level cannot be separated; and, what was the Quinn versus Goyder and AGL court case, and Goyder Council’s DAP refusal to grant approval to the Stony Gap Wind Farm – now before the Environment Court – about, if not, primarily, noise impact on nearby residences?
According to the minutes of the DAP meeting allowing the deletion of the wording, Clare & Gilbert Valleys decision also rests on its understanding that the EPA’s (Environment Protection Authority) noise guidelines will ensure that levels will not be breached. However, my understanding is that the EPA makes recommendations and then refers back to Council and the development process.
If wind farm developers can so readily change generator models, potentially impacted communities would have no opportunity to make objections and to provide independent noise assessments.
This latest decision by Clare & Gilbert Valleys DAP makes a mockery of the development process, already greatly eroded by the Ministerial Wind Farm Development Plan Amendment of 2012.
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