March 20, 2015

Victoria to cut wind farm buffer zone in half

By EVERARD HIMMELREICH | The Standard | March 21, 2015 |

Victorian wind energy supporters have welcomed state government reforms that will make it easier to build wind farms in the state.

However, wind farm opponents say the reforms will be “irrelevant” if the federal government is successful with its proposal to reduce the national Renewable Energy Target (RET).

The changes, announced yesterday, cut the buffer zone where households can veto a proposed wind turbine from two kilometres to one.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the changes would reopen Victoria to investors in renewable energy and create jobs.

Wind farm opponent Keith Staff, the Southern Grampians Landscape Guardians president, said the reforms were likely to be “irrelevant” if the federal government managed to reduce the national RET.

Mr Staff, of Penshurst, said a reduction in the RET was expected to make large-scale wind farms, such as the Penshurst one, unviable.

However, Clean Energy Council spokesman Russell Marsh said the federal government’s negotiations for a new RET target were not complete and could conclude with a target not much different from the current one.

Daniel Leahy, project manager for RES Australia that is proposing to build a massive wind farm near Penshurst, said the changes would reduce the complexity of designs the company was developing for the project.

Mr Leahy said the changes might influence the design of the Penshurst wind farm but not that of a 75-turbine project it hoped to start building near Ararat later this year.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) welcomed Mr Andrews’s announcement, saying it delivered on Labor’s election promise to “rip up” the worst aspects of the former government’s anti-wind farm laws.

FoE’s renewable energy spokesman Leigh Ewbank said the announcement paved the way for the broader reform of wind energy planning laws.

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