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Golden Plains Wind Farm denies report on turbine cut

The proponent behind the mammoth Golden Plains Wind Farm near Rokewood has denied reports less than the planned 228 turbines will be built.

In a statement, a WestWind spokesperson said it was “inaccurate” to suggest the scope of the project had changed.

The only aspect was the size of the turbines, they said, as technology had increased while the project had stalled.

“It is inaccurate that the number of turbines will change from the currently approved 228 turbines or that the project boundary will be increased in a planning amendment,” they said.

“An amendment to increase the turbine rotor from 150 (metres) to 165M (with no increase to tip height) is now being sought because GPWF did not seek a restriction on rotor size during the initial planning application.

“GPWF submitted the largest commercially available suitable wind turbine model at the time of application for its expert studies and applied for a planning permit on that basis.

“The Minister of Planning subsequently limited the rotor size based on the turbine model that was assessed. Due to the significant project time delays from the legal challenges, there have been more advances in turbine technology into the market with rotor size increases being one of the advances.”

The proposed wind farm, which is expected to begin construction in 2021, includes 228 wind turbines, up to 230 metres tall, across the township of Rokewood, 40 minutes south of Ballarat.

It has been subject to several court cases regarding its planning approval, particularly around brolga breeding sites and the turbine’s potential effect on the animals.

When complete, landowners with turbines on their properties will receive financial compensation, while the company has also committed to an ongoing community support fund and free electricity for the town and surrounds.

Meanwhile, other projects, independent of WestWind’s proposal, are moving forward – an application for a basalt quarry on private land about five kilometres to the east of Rokewood was submitted to Golden Plains Shire Council this month.

The proponents were phoned multiple times for comment but no answer was received.

The planning documents state the land, on the Rokewood-Shelford Road, is not under any heritage overlays, nor does it have any native vegetation.

If approved, the quarry could support the wind farm’s construction, providing rock for roads and bases, the documents note, estimating the project will need “in excess of one million tonnes of rock material” over four to six years.

“The Proposed Quarry will provide access to a high quality and much needed basalt resource and facilitate the expansion of a local family business, with associated employment and economic benefits,” the documents state.

“The Proposed Quarry will supply materials to local markets and projects, including the Golden Plains Wind Farm and facilitate the development of this important project.”

The quarry would use blasting to access fresh basalt, with blastings limited throughout the year and the community notified ahead of time.

The documents also quote the state Department of Land, Water, Environment and Planning, which notes the quarry is within two kilometres of a known brolga nesting site, but “the proponent has identified the issue and has committed to implement a process to identify the presence of breeding brolga in the nearby area and reduce the extent and timing of blasting during the breeding time”.

WestWind declined to comment on the quarry proposal, but noted it would not own or operate it if approved.

“Golden Plains Wind Farm is currently undergoing the planning process for a quarry within the project site boundary,” a spokesperson said.

“GPWF remains committed to sourcing materials from a localised quarry.”