The NSW Department of Planning have made recommendations to slash the amount of turbines proposed in the Rye Park Wind Farm plans.
Up to 25 wind turbines would be removed from the plans in order to maintain the rural character of the local village, according to the Department of Planning and Environment assessment.
Modifications were made to the number of turbines in 2016 by the proponents Trustpower, reducing the 126 turbines to 109, to address environmental and amenity concerns.
This time round, the numbers would fall from from 109 to 84.
Proponents Tilt Renewable (formerly Trustpower) have said the decrease would seriously impact the viability of the project, resulting in a 30 per cent reduction in the wind farm.
“We support the majority of the proposed conditions and the planning approval, but not the recommendations to remove 25 turbines based purely on visual grounds,” Manager Stakeholders and Environment Renewable Development at Tilt Renewables Rontheo Van Zyl said.
“It would have very little benefit from an environmental sense in our view, and severely reduce the viability of the $600 million project and in turn significantly increase the cost of electricity from the wind farm.”
Mr Van Zyl said the local economy would also be impacted by the reduction.
“… It also relates to $62,000 lost community funds … It would mean the loss of up to $2 million injection in the local community, 250 plus jobs over three years and significant funds going into the regional economy.”
Whilst the Rye Park project was on public exhibition in 2014, the NSW Department of Planning received 117 responses, 98 per cent opposing the project.
A further 240 submissions were made to the department in May and July last year when changes to the project were publicly exhibited, 50 per cent of which were objections.
Yet, locals opposing the project say it isn’t nearly enough of a reduction.
“I would like to see them stop the lot,” Rye Park local Jim Field said. “They propose to clear thousands of acres of country that should never be cleared and it will create erosion, make firefighting almost impossible and people are going to be living within 2km of them.
“They should be banned…”
The Planning Department’s Director of Resource Assessments, Mike Young says the removal of turbines will come from different areas in the plan.
“This includes 16 turbines proposed to be located near Rye Park village and nine turbines from another area which could impact some nearby households,” Mr Young said.
“After consulting with an independent visual analysis expert, the Department found the proposed wind turbine plan would adversely impact the rural character of the village and views of the local landscape.
“We also found that the Rye Park Wind Farm proposal would still make a substantial contribution to the development of renewable energy in NSW, even if these recommended changes to the wind turbine were applied.”
Mr Young highlighted that the project had the potential to generate enough renewable wind energy every year to power 100,000 homes if the remaining 84 turbines were approved.
“We consider every application on its merits under the planning legislation and clear NSW Government guidelines. Public feedback is also an important part of our assessment,” he said.
The 68 conditions have been recommended to manage a range of issues, including strict noise limits, offsets for clearing of trees and upgrades to the local road network.
For the Australian Wind Alliance, the slash to the numbers have proven the Department have prioritised ‘aesthetics’ before ‘regional jobs’.
“Focusing on how wind farms look and ignoring what they do for the state is poor planning,” Australian Wind Alliance national co-ordinator Andrew Bray said. “This wind farm promises to employ 370 people in construction and pump $49 million into the local economy in its current form. Why put all that at risk because the project may impact some people’s’ views?
Yet for local resident Christine Hawkins, the visual impact will be devastating.
“From my house there will 13 turbines in full view, the closest only 1.6km from my windows and eight within 3km,” she said. “This is rural country. Leave farming land for farming and the bush land for the wildlife.”
The assessment will now go to the independent Planning Assessment Commission who will have the final say on the project, which could be approved with proposed changes to the number of turbines and with 68 stringent conditions.
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