Energy company AGL has reaffirmed its commitment to the Silverton wind farm project in far west New South Wales, and says studies of the site will get under way within weeks.
The proposed site along the Barrier Ranges just outside the Silverton township was first proposed in 2007 by Epuron, but stalled after AGL took over in 2012.
AGL blamed uncertainty about the federal government’s Renewable Energy Target for the pause, with development approval set to run out in May.
The company announced at a community meeting on Thursday night it applied that day to have another five years added to the approval, and announced a new project manager, Adam Mackett.
“We’re already doing work through the hydrogeological study where we’re committed to this project, so we’re showing that,” Mr Mackett said.
“It is a half-a-billion-dollar project so before we then fully commit to constructing it we need to do a bit of work.”
Mr Mackett is no stranger to the state’s far west, having managed the construction of the Broken Hill solar farm around 25 minutes away.
He also oversaw the construction of South Australia’s Hallett wind farm.
“We’re confident of having [the Silverton project] extended, we think the Silverton wind farm is a fantastic opportunity.”
AGL hopes the wind farm will generate enough power to supply around 120,000 average homes.
Funding will be contributed from AGL’s newly-announced Powering Australian Renewables Fund, which will be seeded partly by the Broken Hill solar farm.
Silverton residents and graziers raised a range of concerns at the meeting on Thursday, including the amount of water that would be required during construction.
The region is enduring a water shortage and the Umberumberka reservoir at Silverton is completely empty.
Mr Mackett said wind farms did not require any water to operate but that a significant amount was needed during construction, although he did not have a figure.
“You use water in road construction and then also in dust suppression and with concrete that flows into that,” he said.
“We would be looking at sourcing that water from bores and groundwater, and through our experience on other wind farms when you look at dust suppression you can add additives to that to try and minimise what you use.”
The nearest turbine to residents will be 4.6 kilometres away.
Tourism and noise worries
Silverton resident Helen Murray said she was concerned that the development would put a damper on tourism.
“A lot of us with businesses have been asking over the last few years the tourists that have been coming through, what do they think about wind farms generally, and pointing out where this one’s going to be,” Ms Murray said.
“Most of them that I’ve spoken to and certainly a number of other people have said these people are absolutely horrified, and that they wouldn’t come back to Silverton,” she said.
“They’re quite concerned for the iconic nature of the town, and I think we’re going to lose a lot.”
Ms Murray, like a number of other community members, is concerned about the potential noise generated by the turbines.
She said there were too many unknowns.
“They just have an answer for everything, we keep going over the same ground, over and over again,” she said.
“There’s plenty of information out there now that’s been produced by scientists, experts in their field and whatever, and they just constantly discount it.”
AGL said it hopes its Powering Australian Renewables fund will be set up by the middle of the year, and that the extension to the project’s approval will be signed off in the next three months.
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