Fears renewable energy projects could turn Far North Queensland’s pristine rainforest into ‘industrial wasteland’
There are calls for the Queensland government to stop approving large, foreign-owned wind farm developments in Far North Queensland, amid fears the area could become an “industrial wasteland”.
The South-Korean owned wind and solar energy developer Epuron wants to build a 94-wind turbine development that will border World Heritage listed rainforest, west of Cairns.
Assessment work is already under way for the site which will be located on two pastoral properties near Tully Falls National Park, part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
More than 1,200 hectares of land will be cleared to make way for more than 200-metre-high turbines as part of the Chalumbin Wind Farm.
The wind farm is expected to stretch from an area west of Ingham, north to the west of Cairns.
Federal Kennedy MP Bob Katter said the development would threaten birds and several vulnerable species in the area, including the greater glider.
“Every north Queenslander must answer these questions: Do you want your natural wonderland turned into an industrial wasteland,” Mr Katter said.
“I am not against all wind farms. At Hughenden you can build one at 1,000 metres above sea level, where there are no trees or abundant bird life.
“The wind there is also far more reliable. It’s a great idea there.”
Renewable energy companies accused of ‘greenwash’
The proposed Chalumbin Wind Farm development will be built near the mountain village of Ravenshoe, if approved.
French company Neoen is already building the Kaban Green Power Hub in the area.
Land clearing is already underway for that project, which will include a wind farm consisting of 28 turbines, each also more than 200 metres high.
There is also the proposed Desailly Renewable Energy Park, owned by Irish-owned DP Energy and at Walkamin, about a 40 minute drive away, the Thai-owned Mt Emerald Wind Farm has been operating for several years.
Rainforest Reserves Australia Inc president Carolyn Emms said the Chalumbin development would mean 70 metre wide access roads would be pushed through the area.
“These turbines will be as big as some of the tallest buildings in Australia at 226 metres,” Ms Emms said.
“We’re looking at up to 800 cubic metres of concrete. This is going to accelerate fossil fuel [consumption], mining.
“This is the greatest greenwash.”
Epuron, the company behind the proposed Chalumbin development, has been holding community consultation sessions at Ravenshoe.
Dozens of residents protested against the project outside one of the recent sessions, including traditional owner Tom Gertz.
“They see this area as a wasteland, but it’s not, it’s far from it,” Mr Gertz said.
“I’m very devastated over how this government is pushing this though. This area is very culturally significant.”
Herberton resident Peta Weaver was also at the information session and said while she had some concerns about the number of wind farms being built in the area, Australia’s reliance on coal had to stop.
“I know that there’s going to be a loss of species through climate change and I think that would be a much worse scenario than the loss of species through these sorts of renewable energy developments,” Ms Weaver said.
Project would power 350,000 homes
Epuron said the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment had determined it would assess the Chalumbin project under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
General manager of development Anthony Russo said less than 4 per cent of the site would be cleared and the project would power 350,000 homes.
“We’ve been through a very rigorous process to design the project within the constraints and opportunities of the site,” Mr Russo said.
“The initial proposal involved 200 wind turbines, and based on the input not only received through the ecological surveys, but also the cultural heritage surveys, we’ve reduced [that] to 94 wind turbines.
“Ultimately, as we see across Queensland and Australia, we’ve got certain government commitments to 50 per cent renewable energy targets by 2030.”
Queensland Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Minister Mick de Brenni said all major projects had to go through a “rigorous environmental assessment process”.
“It has to stack up – if it stacks up, it’s allowed to proceed,” he said.
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