A massive 170 square kilometre wind farm has passed the final Victorian planning hurdle, and could be powering in four years if the federal government approves the project.
The $1.5 billion wind farm, sprawling over 17,000 hectares near the small town of Rokewood south of Ballarat, passed environmental approvals last month.
Acting Planning Minister Lily D’Ambrosio will on Saturday announce the Victorian government has granted a planning permit for the project in the Golden Plains Shire.
All that remains is for the federal government to sign off on it.
In December, Planning Minister Richard Wynne reduced the size of the site after receiving environmental advice that the wind farm – then slated to be the biggest in the southern hemisphere – could threaten native brolgas, which nest in the area.
Mr Wynne scaled the project’s footprint back by about 20 per cent, saying brolgas’ nesting grounds were being threatened by climate change, but also by projects that would mitigate its effects.
“Brolgas in Victoria are therefore threatened both by climate change and by one of the key technologies at our disposal to attempt to combat and mitigate climate change,” Planning Minister Richard Wynne wrote.
The initial plans allowed for 228 turbines, but Mr Wynne downsized this by as many as 47 turbines, depending on how the proponents – the German-backed, Gisborne-based company West Wind Energy – choose to distribute the turbines to meet environmental restrictions.
But the site will remain vast. The turbines will be up to 230 metres tall, and will generate nearly 3000 gigawatt hours of electricity per year; enough to power more than 400,000 homes.
The majority of the area is covered by farmlands.
One of those farmlands is home to the Meredith Music and Golden Plains festivals, but a government spokeswoman said it was unlikely there would be any impact to the sound enjoyed by festivalgoers.
“At close to 20 kilometres from the music site, an almost silent wind farm is unlikely to have any effect at all on the festival,” she said.
The Victorian government has set a renewable energy target for the state of 50 per cent by 2030, and says the Golden Plains wind farm will be critical to meeting that commitment.
“This project will create hundreds of local jobs, reduce greenhouse emissions and generate enough electricity to power more than 400,000 homes – boosting supply and putting downward pressure on power prices.”