Southern Flinders Ranges residents are vowing to stop a 50-turbine wind farm from ruining the landscape, fearing the project will be fast-tracked because of the state’s energy crisis.
The group of residents at Beetaloo Valley, 20km north of Crystal Brook, are outraged at a proposal by French company, Neoen, to create an “energy park” in their backyard.
The $500 million project would create 150 jobs during construction and include a battery storage facility, solar farm and 50 wind turbines, which would power 145,000 homes with renewable energy.
The turbines have been earmarked for a section of the 1200km Heysen Trail, on the ranges extending north of Crystal Brook to Beetaloo Valley and Colby Hill.
Group spokesman John Birrell feared the State Government would support the project to secure its energy supply network before summer, despite its development plan saying it was an area where “wind farms were not explicitly envisaged”.
“We have the suspicion that they (Neoen) have tapped on their solar and battery projects to push their wind farm,” Mr Birrell said.
“So if the South Australian Government is prepared to back a wind farm here, they should also be prepared to support opening up the Mt Lofty Ranges for similar developments.”
Mr Birrell said they were not against a battery or solar facility but the wind farm straddled two council areas, which had identified the area as being protected for its “natural character and scenic features”.
“Once there is encroachment into this protection zone, it sets an alarming precedent for the rest of the Flinders Ranges,” Mr Birrell said.
“The irony is the Government is pushing for some areas of the Flinders to be world heritage-listed and at the same time, we’re getting an application from a foreign country to put in an industrial development.”
While Neoen was yet to lodge an application with the Development Assessment Commission, the project was detailed on its website and a plan was presented to the community last month.
Neoen representatives have another meeting with residents on Wednesday and it was expected to lodge a development application with the commission in May.
“We’re hoping to kick up as much fuss, so Neoen won’t put in a development application,” Mr Birrell said. “We want to make it so hard that they reconsider it.”
Once an application was received by the DAC, a report would be prepared for Planning Minister John Rau, which would include whether the proposal was seriously at variance with the relevant development plan.
Planning Minister John Rau denied that its development plan would be overlooked for the project to receive approval.
“Any suggestion the State Government will apply anything other than orderly due process in this matter is completely false,” he said.”
Beetaloo Valley was the same community which fought to overcome a similar proposal by Origin Energy in 2012, which was eventually abandoned.
Neoen could not be contacted for comment.
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