As the Federal Government signals its intention to scale back renewable energy investment and the New South Wales Government announces new planning controls on wind farms, one company is promising to fight an unprecedented order to rip-out misplaced turbines.
Wind energy company Goldwind has been ordered to remove nine misplaced turbines, a move the NSW Planning Minister Pru Goward says is a first.
But Goldwind is contesting the order in the state’s Land and Environment Court, believing the Government has the law wrong.
“The environmental impact assessment has the flexibility for the minor movements that have been made,” said John Titchen, the CEO of Goldwind.
“It is standard practice,” he said, arguing that an earlier Land and Environment Court ruling backs the company.
The State Government disagrees.
“The impact wasn’t minor,” said Planning Minister Pru Goward, of the nine turbines in question.
The project, near the Southern Tablelands farming town of Crookwell, has long faced vocal opposition.
49 of its 73 turbines are within two kilometres of houses; the minimum distance suggested in the NSW Government’s draft guidelines.
Landholders’ complaints triggered a departmental investigation, which earlier this year found 69 turbines weren’t built on their proposed co-ordinates.
One third of them were built more than 50 metres from where they were meant to be, while one turbine was 187 metres from its specified location.
After a planning and assessment commission last month rejected the company’s application to retrospectively approve the new locations , the department has issued a draft order demanding the removal of nine turbines.
Opponents like Humphrey Price-Jones say that’s insufficient.
“I would suggest that 69 turbines ought be considered, not simply nine,” he said, criticising the company for its approach
“It has ignored the Department of Planning’s requirements from the very time construction began.”
The Upper Lachlan Shire Council, in which the project is situated, agrees.
The council has passed a resolution calling for the planning and assessment commission’s rejection of the company’s modification bid to be upheld.
Goldwind’s CEO John Titchen is adamant the company is still entitled to rely on its original approval.
Mr Titchen says it’s entirely normal for final locations to vary, based on wind analysis and site constraints, like terrain or surrounding bushland
“For example, one of the turbines the department is proposing should be moved, was relocated [by the company] away from a forest,” he said, adding that the company is required to minimise land clearing.
Mr Titchen says the Department of Planning has paid too much attention to public complaints.
He says the department had earlier acknowledged the project’s environmental approval did give it some flexibility on turbine location.
“It seems it’s been difficult for them to retreat from public statements about it,” he said.
“[They were] very bold statements about the turbines not being in the correct locations.”
Ms Goward is backing her department.
“The department’s view was that these adjustments were not minor,” the planning minister said.
“This is about sending a very clear signal to the wind farm industry… they need to stick by the rules and we’re going to enforce them.”
The company has until the end of the month to indicate whether it will contest the draft order.
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