The proponents of a $670 million wind farm west of Yass have not consulted properly with 23 airstrips in the area, or provided enough information to AirServices on impacts on radar equipment near the wind farm and near Canberra Airport.
In a scathing assessment which has thrown into doubt the project’s future, NSW Planning and Environment found aircraft from nine of the rural airstrips may not have achieved enough altitude before reaching the wind turbines.
An independent review cited in the assessment found that impacts at these airstrips needed to be fully understood, particularly in relation to aircraft performance and departure gradients, which would determine whether or not an aircraft would be able to obtain sufficient obstacle clearance and turn safely.
Neighbouring farmers who waged a long campaign against the project have cracked open champagne to celebrate the department’s findings, while a spokesman for proponent Epuron Projects, Andrew Wilson, says he is surprised.
“We have just received it [the department’s assessment], we are very surprised, it wasn’t what we were expecting,” Mr Wilson said.
NSW Planning’s recommendation to reject the project is being considered by NSW’s Planning Assessment Commission for final determination.
AirServices Australia refused to support Epuron’s aeronautical assessment for air traffic control radar equipment on Mt Majura [Canberra] and Mt Bobbara [near Binalong] because it was not given enough information.
Epuron had not yet secured agreement with five landowners, five years after an environmental impact study was originally exhibited, but wanted to include the five properties in the development application, and put infrastructure on these properties.
The Canberra Times reported last year landholder Marilyn Garry had rejected Epuron’s offer of $30,000 a year for hosting three turbines and other infrastructure on her family’s grazing property near Binalong. Wind farm hosts generally welcome an opportunity to host turbines because the cash flow counters drought and volatility in agriculture, but Mrs Garry said wind turbines were” just hideous”.
Government agencies and landholders also raised concerns about noise, health, visual amenity, traffic, impact of property values and construction-related impacts.
The Office of Environment and Heritage recommended the number of turbines be reduced or relocated to avoid damaging endangered ecological communities, while Yass Valley Council was worried about wear and tear on the local roads network from heavy vehicles.
Construction would involve hauling in heavy components for turbines and substations, but Epuron had failed to undertake structural assessments of bridges and major drainage structures. One bridge with a 10-tonne load limit was significantly lower than the load weights of over-mass vehicles that could be used during the construction of the project.
NSW Planning acknowledged the wind farm’s potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribution to the renewable energy target, but concluded too much uncertainty and therefore risk surrounded elements of the proposal and its impacts.
A spokesman for opposing landholders, Mark Glover, said wind farms were not compatible with agricultural activities in populated areas.
Mr Glover said the Australian government’s Senate inquiry into wind turbines was looking at whether they abated carbon dioxide, or whether they would always operate in parallel with coal-fired generation. “Finally someone has seen a bit of sense, we will see more on abatement come out of the inquiry,” Mr Glover said.
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