The final obstacles for the largest renewable energy project in the region, and one of the biggest in Australia, are slipping away as the state Planning Minister gives his tick of approval.
The 215-turbine Golden Plains Wind Farm, to be built at Rokewood, has been bogged down in years of legal battles but has finally been given the green light by Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne approving a planning amendment.
The dispute centred around the initial planned layout for 228 turbines, and the potential effect on brolga populations in the area.
With this approval, proponent WestWind will now move to the next phase of development for the $2 billion project, which is to secure a grid connection – managing director Tobi Geiger said the company was working closely with the independent Australian Energy Market Operator on this.
“There were conditions for brolga buffers – that required potentially a redesign of the layout where the turbines are going, and because of those movements, quite a lot were needed, so we needed a planning permit amendment, which we’ve received,” he said.
He noted the permit still allows the company to build up to 228 turbines, but the current layout is for 215.
Previously, WestWind has argued the massive project would have significant effects on the town of Rokewood as well as the shire more broadly, with the proponents promising to invest back into the community.
As reported earlier there will be direct payments from proponent WestWind to host landholders and neighbours, residents within three kilometres of a turbine will also receive free electricity, and a community fund – $1000 annually for each turbine, or up to about $228,000 – will support projects in the area.
The assessment report was signed off in 2019 but there were legal appeals from landholders surrounding the proposal, which led to the requirement for a permit amendment.
If the project receives all necessary approvals, construction could begin by mid-next year.