The Victorian planning minister has approved a 33-turbine wind farm in the state’s south-east despite community concerns it may pose a fire risk.
Osmi Australia will start building the wind farm next year among pine tree plantations near Delburn in the Strezlecki ranges, which borders three Gippsland shires.
Over 12 days in late 2021 a planning panel heard from the company, community, and environmental groups about the potential effects of the farm, but an Environmental Effects Statement was not prepared.
The panel’s report recommended the turbines be approved, but not the construction of grid-scale battery storage at the site due to fire risk.
“The panel found the information provided about the siting and fire-safety measures for [the storage system] was inadequate for it to recommend in favour of it at this stage,” the report said.
An Osmi Australia spokesperson said the decision was “prudent given the number of battery fires” that have occurred since the permit application was lodged.
Executive director Peter Marriott said the project would still go ahead without the battery.
“The other key thing that happened since we applied for this battery as part of the wind farm, there’s been an announcement of about four or five other very large batteries in close electrical proximity around the Latrobe Valley, so it’s certainly not a key part of the project,” he said.
“It’s something we’ll always remain open to – we’re obviously really keen to digest the findings of the recommendations of the CFA and WorkSafe investigation into the Moorabool battery fire.”
Conditions have been set on the approval, including undergrounding transmission cables and installing firefighting system in each turbine.
Planning Minister Richard Wynne received a report on the proposal five weeks ago.
The state Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, said the Minister should have taken more time to consider the implications of a recent Supreme Court ruling on the new farm.
“It seems incredible the Minister could have approved Delburn just a few days later, despite strong opposition from the local community,” he said.
“In my view, given Gippsland’s relatively densely populated landscape, the right location for wind farms is offshore, where I strongly support proposed facilities such as the Star of the South.”
Community group Voices of the Valley welcomed the decision as part of the area’s transition to renewable energy production.
“Power stations have dominated the landscape over the past century in the valley, but now we are watching the transformation of energy across the region,” Wendy Farmer said.
“It is significant that the announcement today comes on the week of the fifth anniversary of the Hazelwood power station closure.”
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