NSW planning authorities have approved the Rye Park wind farm project near Boorowa, but with 17 fewer turbines to appease concerned community members.
The commission cut the number of proposed turbines from 109 to 92, despite the NSW Department of Planning and Environment recommending in March the project’s scope be reduced to 84 wind turbines.
The major renewables project has divided the community for several years and faced significant community opposition as the wind farm developers wrestled to get the project off the ground.
The wind farm was initially planned to erect 126 turbines, which was scaled down by the developer in 2016 to 109 turbines as part of resubmitted proposal.
A NSW Department of Planning and Environment report stated the elevated position of the turbines along nearby ridge lines, and the extensive horizontal views of turbines from the village, would result in an unacceptable visual impact on the village.
It received 240 submissions on the project, many objecting on visual and environmental grounds, and recommended the removal of 25 turbines to achieve a “balance between maximising the use of the site’s wind resources and minimising the potential impacts on the local community and environment”.
The tense community debate about the scale of the wind farm project included a public meeting on March 30 where 43 speakers presented their views to the commission.
The commission’s assessment disagreed with the department.
It noted the diversity of community opinion over the project’s impacts.
It didn’t fully support the department’s recommendation to remove all 16 turbines from the north-west precinct and determined that just half of that, eight turbines, be cut.
Residents, many of whom are due to host turbines on their land, said narrowing the scope would reduce the project’s viability and financial returns fed back the community of Rye Park.
Seventeen fewer turbines will mean a reduction of $42,500 a year from the Community Enhancement Fund, reducing the total contribution to the fund from $272,500, as originally proposed by developers, to $230,000.
“The commission notes the subjectivity of visual assessments and has recommended the removal of eight wind turbines that would have moderate-high visual impacts on residences and the public domain of Rye Park village and nearby residences,” the determination read.
The commission stated the project was “in the public interest” and would deliver benefits to the locality including employment and capital investment and contribution to renewable energy.
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