A major wind farm that has sparked division in a rural community north of Canberra has been approved, but with 17 fewer turbines to allay community concerns.
The Planning Assessment Commission has given the green light to build the Rye Park Wind Farm near Boorowa, on the south-west slopes of New South Wales.
The commission has cut the number of proposed turbines from 109 to 92, despite the NSW Department of Planning and Environment originally recommending it be further reduced to 84.
The department received 240 submissions on the project, with many objecting on visual and environmental grounds.
Former Boorowa councillor and Rye Park sheep farmer Andrew Southwell supports the project, but said he was disappointed it had been scaled down.
“For the landholders involved, that’s disappointing. For the project itself the concern is whether it’ll put up the cost of electricity and make it sort of unviable at this stage,” Mr Southwell said.
“I’m not the one to judge that, that’ll be the company trying to put it together, but that is a concern.”
Potential for jobs and investment
Mr Southwell said there was the potential to revitalise the village of Rye Park, which had long been in decline.
“The jobs that are going to be here during construction of the wind farm, many of them not highly skilled, truck drivers, concrete operators, fences, all those sorts of people,” he said.
“But then longer term, once it is constructed and operating, hopefully some of those people who are working here full-time on the wind farm will make a home in Rye Park or nearby in Boorowa.”
The developer, Tilt Renewables, expressed disappointment the size of the project had been slashed, but was relieved the department’s recommendation to remove 25 turbines had not been fully adopted.
Spokesman Rontheo Van Zyl said while cutting 17 turbines from the wind farm could reduce its viability, he was pleased it had been finally approved.
“We are pleased that potentially this could make the broader and significant public interest and benefits of this project [a] realisation,” he said.
Fears wind farm will force people out of area
But Rye Park landowner David Sainsbury, who is concerned about the visual impacts of the wind farm, said its approval was bad news for the region.
“There are people that have come into the area, and they’ve bought in not knowing that these were going to go ahead,” Mr Sainsbury said.
“They’ve decided they’re not going to be around here much longer, they’re going to go.
“They’ll move and I mean I’ve been here for 22 years and don’t worry, it’s been in my mind too to get up and leave.”
Rye Park resident Rosemary Miller also opposed the project, but said she was happy the project’s footprint was being cut.
“I was very relieved. [The turbines] were right in front of the village, and particularly for one resident that was going to be only 1.4 kilometres from a turbine,” Ms Miller said.
“I think the tide is slowly turning, realising wind farms are probably fine out in the desert, well away from where people are living, but not close to towns and villages.”
Ms Miller said while she was not happy about the project, she planned to stay in the village.
“You could move somewhere else and then a wind turbine farm will be proposed for that area, so it’s probably better the devil you know than the one you don’t, really,” she said.
The Planning Assessment Commission said removing 17 turbines and imposing strict conditions would ensure any negative impacts were outweighed by the broader public benefit.
It said the project would provide employment and investment in the region, as well as contribute to the nation’s renewable energy.
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