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Ballarat wind farms: Project updates for Lal Lal, Moorabool, Stockyard Hill, and Golden Plains

Driving on the highway or taking a train out of Ballarat, the wind turbines that have sprouted over the past two years are inescapable.

With three major projects coming online in that time, and plans for a monstrous fourth in the pipeline to the south, it’s clear that Ballarat has become something of a hub for the machines.

These four modern projects join several others nearby, including closer to Daylesford and Colac.

In time, they’ll generate hundreds of megawatts of electricity for the grid, and the wind farm companies have pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars to community causes for their lifetimes.

Yes, there are still disagreements and conflicts regarding the machines themselves, and the construction – the pastoral views have changed irrevocably, and rural councils are still patching up roads after the hundreds of cement trucks and extra-heavy load trailers stopped visiting – but the turbines will still be an important part of supplying Victoria’s energy needs into the future.

The first of the modern wind farms to be commissioned, the Lal Lal Wind Farm near Lal Lal and through Elaine, was fully completed in 2019.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed the wind farm now has the ability to operate at its full capacity.

A community benefit fund will reopen again in May for new applications from community groups and sports clubs.

“There is $100,000 available for local community groups, located within five kilometres of Lal Lal Wind Farms,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“Our landscaping program (which provides money for screening vegetation on private properties) closes on July 4.”

Further east, the Moorabool Wind Farm has completed construction.

Its 104 turbines are split over two zones south of Ballan.

It’s currently in the commissioning phase, a spokesperson for GoldWind Australia confirmed.

The second round of its community fund will open for applications on May 1.

A project update notes each of the 50 northern turbines, and 13 turbines in the southern sector, have completed commissioning or pre-commissioning as of April this year.

Goldwind Australia also owns the Stockyard Hill Wind Farm, west of Ballarat, between Skipton and Beaufort, in conjunction with Qatari-based Nebras Power.

Construction has finished for each of the 149 turbines, which at time of writing is the largest in the southern hemisphere.

A project update notes 153,470 bolts were positioned and tensioned across the project.

Stockyard Hill may be overtaken by the Golden Plains Wind Farm, which has recently amended its planning permit application.

The project intends to build 215 turbines, down from 228, around the town of Rokewood, south of Ballarat.

Each will be about 230 metres tall, with a 165m rotor diameter, while the brolga monitoring plan, a concern from community members, has also been amended.

While on-site investigations, including a groundwater monitoring program, are ongoing, WestWind Energy’s chief operating officer Marla Brauer said in a statement the planning permit is still being assessed by the state Planning Minister.

“These amendments will allow us to ensure all infrastructure complies with the turbine-free Brolga buffers and will also allow us to take advantage of new advancements in wind turbine technology,” she said.

“We are currently awaiting advice from the Minister on when a Public Notice period will occur. We anticipate that construction will be able to commence in early 2022 and we will be announcing our preferred civil and electrical contractors in the coming months.”

Recipients for the first round of the project’s community benefit fund will be announced in early May, with $10,000 available.

Late last year, Federation University announced it would invest in a new training centre for wind turbine maintenance TAFE courses, including a 20-metre high tower at its Mount Helen campus expected to be completed in mid-2021.