Fifty-three wind turbines each 250 metres in height could be built on the outskirts of the Latrobe Valley under a new plan to provide power for up to 200,000 homes.
The company behind the proposal, OSMI Australia, estimates the project would cost between $400 to $500 million and take about 18 months to build from 2022.
Trading as Delburn Wind Farm Pty Ltd, the turbines would be located in HVP Plantations land bordered by Hernes Oak, Darlimurla, Narracan and Thorpdale to the west and Yinnar and Boolarra to the east.
OSMI Australia director Peter Marriot told The Express the turbines would have a total tip height of 250 metres, with the towers as tall as 160 metres and blades spanning 90 metres in length.
In comparison, the stacks at Hazelwood Power Station measure about 173 metres in height.
“We’re talking about turbines which are much taller than what we’ve seen in the region so far,” Mr Marriot said.
“For example the ones at Bald Hills, down near Tarwin Lower and Walkerville, are on 80-metre towers with 46-metre blades.
“So we’re talking about double the size of infrastructure but we’re also talking about much bigger, physical generators of electricity too.”
He said the 53 turbines when operable would provide about 10 per cent of the generation capacity Hazelwood Power Station provided to the state’s electricity grid.
Should the proposal be given the green light the turbines would have a life expectancy of about 25 years.
Mr Marriot said about 180 houses would be located within two kilometres of the proposed turbines, “but none of those will be as close as a kilometre”.
“We’ve tried to be mindful of visual amenity near neighbours and ensure we’ve got set backs of at least a kilometre from the nearest house,” Mr Marriot said.
Planning restrictions also prevent the wind turbines from being within five kilometres of a “defined township” such as Moe and Morwell.
He said no land would need to be acquired as part of the project.
“The Latrobe Valley historically has been known as not having a terrific wind resource and that’s why we haven’t seen a lot of development in the area,” Mr Marriot said.
“But that ridge provides enough elevation based on our desktop studies that is suitable within the new wind turbine technology.”
Mr Marriot said the proposed project was compliant with state legislation around noise pollution and shadow flicker, and said the company was committed to an “extensive community consultation” period.
A survey to gauge community feedback on the proposal will run until the end of the year.
Planning and environmental approvals will be considered by governments and regulators after a site selection and feasibility study is undertaken.
Forty-three of the turbines would be located in the Latrobe City municipality, while Baw Baw and South Gippsland will be home to three and five turbines, respectively.
Mr Marriot said the company “has a lot of experience” in the wind energy industry despite only having two company directors.
OSMI Australia’s other director, Stephen Buckle, has worked in the sector since the 1990s and was the former managing director of Wind Power, a company responsible for the Bald Hills and Wonthaggi wind farms.
Mr Marriot said wind energy had been “plagued with a lot of misinformation” in recent years and the company would set out to offer a “genuine consultation period” to educate people about the benefits of windfarms and address any concerns of local residents.
“We’ve come in with eyes wide open to genuinely listen. There’s a big sustainability movement and also a movement around a transition into renewable, cleaner, sustainable energy.”
In the coming weeks, the company plans to open a shop front with a local engagement officer for the project “ideally in Yinnar”.
Initial modelling undertaken by OSMI Australia suggests when operatable, the wind farm and its 53 turbines would produce up to 980,000 gigawatt hours of renewable power each year.
Mr Marriot said the Delburn Wind Farm would have a “different wind regime”, particularly compared to those in the west of the state, which would provide a number of benefits.
“It’s in the order of about 10 per cent of what Hazelwood used to produce. Wind farms and renewables operate when the resource is there and they don’t always operate,” Mr Marriot said.
“We’re exposed to a wind regime which is not necessarily the same as western Victoria … so we’re going to be producing power from wind at a different time when wind is strong in western Vic and that’s part of a real benefit.”
Member for Morwell Russell Northe described the wind farm as an “interesting proposal” and said he would take a strong interest in community sentiment.
“I’m sure there will be a range of views expressed by community members on this project and to which I understand the proponent is currently seeking feedback on,” Mr Northe said.
“Community sentiment is something I will be taking a very strong interest in. It is only early stages and OSMI Australia would still need a number of approvals before being able to proceed with the project.
“I have indicated to OSMI Australia that if community support is forthcoming and regulatory approval is granted, then I am keen to see the proponent utilise local skills, goods, contractors and services at every opportunity.”
Latrobe City mayor Graeme Middlemiss welcomed the proposal, however said it lacked “concrete details” so council “will be keeping its powder dry”.
“We don’t have a list of the sites, we know the areas which are proposed but not the details of where the actual wind turbines will located,” Cr Middlemiss said.
“We will wait until that detail is available before we gauge the reaction of our community. I think the key will be to how close the turbines are placed to existing residences .”
To complete the Delburn Wind Farm survey, visit surveymonkey.com/r/OSMI2019.
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