Hydro Tasmania has scored an early win in the battle to build a controversial $2 billion, 200-turbine wind farm on King Island, with the Federal Court in Hobart today rejecting a costs bid by the project’s main opponent.
The No TasWind Farm Group, which said the turbines would be twice as tall as Wrest Point Casino and be visible from every part of the island, had applied for the electricity giant to cover the costs it had incurred fighting the clean energy project.
But Justice Duncan Kerr found in favour of Hydro Tasmania, awarding costs to the power provider, to be fixed.
The TasWind project, which is forecast to pump more than $7 million a year into the island economy and provide an estimated $220 million annual revenue boost to the state’s coffers, has divided the small Bass Strait island.
King Island Mayor Greg Barratt described the debate as a dreadful experience that had caused rifts between friends and families.
Tensions were further raised after a formal vote among islanders in June last year, when Hydro went ahead with a feasibility study despite falling just short of the 60 per cent support threshold it had set for the project.
The fact that none of the power generated by the biggest wind farm in the southern hemisphere would stay in Tasmania only intensified debate.
Supported by both major political parties in Tasmania, the King Island project would produce about 2400 gigawatt hours of renewable energy – enough to power 240,000 homes and provide 5 per cent of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target.
Construction, which would include a high-voltage underwater cable across Bass Strait to Geelong, could begin as early as 2017, with the wind farm producing electricity two years later.
Today’s decision was the first skirmish in a legal war over the project, with the No TasWind Farm Group last September lodging a writ in the Federal Court to derail the Hydro’s feasibility study because it lacked a social licence.