Plans for a $400 million wind farm near Kojonup in Western Australia’s Great Southern have cleared an important bureaucratic hurdle after a planning umpire waved through a proposal for bigger turbines.
Moonies Hill Energy, which is backed by a number of farming families in the region, wants to build one of the biggest wind farms in the state, comprising 42 turbines capable of generating almost 180 megawatts combined.
The plans have been on the drawing board for more than a decade and originally involved the use of smaller turbines.
But under an amendment that went before a regional joint development assessment panel yesterday, the company was given approval to use larger 4.2-megawatt turbines made by Danish manufacturer Vestas.
Nod for 42 turbines up to 200m high
The turbines, which will be up to 200 metres high, are to be installed in two stages across a site that straddles the shires of Kojonup and Broomehill Tambellup, 260 kilometres south-east of Perth.
Sarah Rankin, chief executive of Moonies Hill Energy, said the approval would allow the firm to increase production from the project while reducing the noise output from the turbines.
Dr Rankin said the panel’s approval was an important step for the project, but bigger milestones lay ahead as the company sought to secure offtake agreements with customers as well as access to the electricity grid.
“We’re obviously very pleased that the [development approval] amendment has gone through and it’s allowing us to progress with the project,” Dr Rankin said.
“We’ve got approval now to install the latest turbine model that’s available to us and that’s very important.”
Approval by the assessment panel, which vets major projects in the region, came after complaints were aired by critics of the wind farm.
Wind farm noise concern
In a submission ahead of yesterday’s hearing, Paul and Helen Bignell said that, as close neighbours of the wind farm, they were likely to be the most affected by the project.
The pair suggested they were particularly worried about exposure to noise and “flickers” from the turbine blades and called for the installations to be pushed farther away from their property.
“The current location of turbine 7 means that we would constantly be working in an area subject to heavy noise and heavy shadow and flicker,” they wrote.
“It is absolutely essential that turbine 7 is relocated away from work building[s] as no turbines should be this close to workplaces as you would appreciate.
“Many wind farms have a minimum setback of 1 kilometre from dwellings and workplaces to ameliorate these problems.”
According to Dr Rankin, discussion at the hearing was “robust” but the panel’s approval meant the project would be able to go ahead.
She said demand for renewable energy remained strong as major power users moved to offset their emissions.
Dr Rankin said construction of the first, 75-megawatt stage of the wind farm was expected to start by the middle of next year.
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