The biggest wind farm in the southern hemisphere will be built between Ballarat and Geelong, powering an estimated half a million homes a year by 2025, if the Andrews government gives the project the green light.
The proposed wind farm would sprawl across 167 square kilometres of farmland near the small town of Rokewood in south-west Victoria, about 40 kilometres south of Ballarat.
It would have 228 wind turbines, each 230 metres tall at their highest point. By way of comparison, just four skyscrapers in Melbourne are taller.
The largest operating wind farm in Victoria, at Macarthur, has 140 turbines that are up to 140 metres high.
According to planning documents published on Friday, the wind farm would produce up to 3500 gigawatt-hours of energy a year – equal to the average annual energy consumption of at least 450,000 homes.
The local Coalition MP attacked the project as a wasteful folly that would do little to secure Victoria’s energy supply.
Its proponents, the German-backed, Gisborne-based company West Wind Energy, argue the project will help to reduce electricity prices and help Victoria and Australia meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets.
It will cost an estimated $1.7 billion to build.
Dubbed the Golden Plains Wind Farm, it will have an energy generation capacity of between 800 and 1000 megawatts, slightly more than half the capacity of the shuttered Hazelwood coal-fired power plant.
The project has been in development since 2006, but still requires planning approval from the Andrews government. A planning panel will consider the proposal at a hearing due to begin on July 30.
West Wind Energy hopes to begin construction next year.
The wind farm would begin to operate by 2021 and be in full flight by 2025, the planning documents show. It would be decommissioned and pulled down some time after 2050.
According to West Wind Energy, the project will be a major contributor of renewable energy in Victoria, helping the state to achieve its 40 per cent renewable energy target by 2025 and its zero net emissions target by 2050.
“The project will help Australia meet its international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels, while also protecting the land for continued agricultural use,” the company said.
The 39 landowners on whose properties the turbines will be built will be given lease payments, the documents say, without stating how much.
Polwarth state Liberal MP Richard Riordan said the project was an ideologically driven folly that would scar the landscape and create intermittent energy supply.
“If this ideological government gets its way it’ll cover my entire electorate in Rialto-sized concrete pylons that would work 20 to 30 per cent of the time,” Mr Riordan said.
He said his rural electorate of Polwarth already had among the highest concentration of wind turbines in Australia, but residents had been given minimal opportunity to have their say.
“If these turbines are so harmless and so pretty to look at, why not put them up in Port Phillip Bay along the Esplanade, or in open spaces in Fitzroy and Collingwood,” Mr Riordan said.
Planning Minister Richard Wynne ruled last year that an environment effects statement was required, because of the project’s potential impact on native plants and animals.
Mr Wynne said Victoria’s renewable energy targets were ambitious but achievable.
“We are in the business of supporting appropriate clean energy projects because they create jobs for regional and rural Victorians,” Mr Wynne said.
“Not only do these projects create hundreds of construction jobs, they provide big boosts for other businesses all over the region.”
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