The Federal Environment Minister has approved a $380 million wind farm on the Atherton Tablelands in far north Queensland, subject to 35 conditions aimed at protecting native species.
Developers RATCH Australia and Port Bajool hope to start building the 63-turbine Mt Emerald wind farm, near Walkamin, mid-next year, creating about 150 jobs during construction.
The project secured state approvals in April subject to conditions relating to noise and proximity to dwellings.
The minister has imposed a further 35 conditions aimed at protecting native species such as the northern quoll and spectacled flying fox.
Terry Johannsen from RATCH said once built, the wind farm was expected to deliver about 650,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy each year and power 75,000 homes for 20 years.
“The number, 75,000 homes, that’s an average number over the whole year,” he said.
“So obviously if the wind drops off we’re not supplying power to any homes but if the wind’s blowing at its strongest we can supply something like 250,000 homes.
“There’s a few little studies we have to get done that help out with the design of the wind farm.
“There’s geotechnical design, geotech studies on the site, there’s a few bits and pieces we have to get done as far as environmental wise with clearance surveys and stuff like that before we can get started on site.”
Opponents plan next move
Long-time opponents of the wind farm plans said they were considering their next move.
Steve Lavis from the Tablelands Wind Turbine Action Group said he was shocked and disappointed.
“Barely game to mention it to our partners for the fear of upsetting them,” he said.
“We did a survey that said 92 per cent of the local community within five kilometres did not want it.
“But our powers to be, our government leaders, seem to overlook their local constituents in favour of the big business and the Thai-based companies that are going to come in, and what are they going to do, steal our wind now?”
‘Serious infrastructure and serious investment’
However, local federal MP Warren Entsch said the Mt Emerald farm and several other renewable energy projects slated for north Queensland were essential to securing the region’s power needs.
“This is going to certainly feed a lot of power into the grid,” he said.
“You’re going to see 75,000-odd households that’ll be fuelled from this initiative.
“It’s going to see some serious infrastructure on the ground and serious investment, there’s job opportunities there and these are the sorts of things we need to see happening in our region.”
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