Confidential discussions about a plan to construct Victoria’s largest wind farm with turbines greater than 200 metres tall are infuriating some farmers who have labelled the project “divisive” and “secretive”.
Stock & Land can reveal a 600-megawatt wind farm could be built in the region between Seymour, Ruffy and Euroa, with construction to start as soon as 2025.
Leaked documents show that the controversial project could include the construction of up to 80 eight-MW, 200-metre turbines throughout the Strathbogie Shire Council.
In comparison, the height of the light towers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground are 75 metres.
Farmers who oppose the project and have spoken on the condition of anonymity say the broader community has been kept in the dark about the plan as the company leading the project attempts to sure up support from certain landowners.
Highlands woolgrower and beef farmer Alistair Lade, whose 1000-hectare property is 650 metres above sea level, said he was frustrated by the lack of information about the project.
“I know they’re very pushy, they won’t give any information out to the general public or community and they’re really trying to get some of the landholders who have shown interest signed up in the next three weeks,” Mr Lade said.
“They’re saying they’re going to be the tallest wind towers in Victoria at something like 250 metres high.”
This week the Australian Electricity Market Operator confirmed a plan to construct a 600MW wind farm near Seymour had been publicly announced.
Italian-based Fabbrica Energie Rinnovabili Alternative (FERA) are behind the project and have recently approached landowners in the area to host wind turbines.
A second company, Tilt Renewables, also has plans to establish a similar wind farm in the region.
Mr Lade said he had not been approached to host turbines on his property, but should the project go ahead, several turbines would be located on neighbouring properties.
“The general community cannot get any information from the company about it.
“The people that are getting wind towers on their farm get substantial rent from each of the towers, but everybody else, such as adjoining landowners, get zero.”
Stock & Land understands landowners who host a single turbine are being offered more than $3500/MW installed or 2 per cent of the project’s revenue a year as remuneration, with some single-turbine agreements worth more than $35,000 a year.
The leaked documents, which detail a timeline for the project, reveal the FERA aims to finalise landowner contracts by the end of 2022 before it determines a grid connection route in 2023, which is currently unknown.
Construction and commission would take place in 2025-26.
FERA Australia is also the proponent of Tasmanian-based 30-MW Triabunna Wind Farm, 90 kilometres north-east of Hobart.
Hughes Creek woolgrower and beef farmer Gail Jenkins said she was first approached by the proponents of the wind farm about three years ago about the prospect of hosting a number of turbines.
Mrs Jenkins is one of the owners of the prominent property Bungle Boori, a 2430-hectare property, which has been in her family for 90 years.
“We were approached by both companies whether we would consider having them and we’ve said no we won’t,” she said.
“I think it would be a desecration of a very beautiful area.”
She owns the property with her two sisters and their niece and nephew and said she opposed the plan from an aesthetic point of view.
She also raised concerns about the effects the turbines could have on aerial firefighting.
“I am very much afraid that it will become very much divisive,” she said.
“I also have a feeling the community does not know a lot about this project at this stage.
“Each span of these turbines is about 87 metres so if you had a helicopter come in to try and water bomb, I think those wind turbines would be a hazard.”
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning oversees the planning stage of renewable energy projects and said it had not received an application for a wind farm at the locality.
Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood said the project in north-east Victoria would be among the largest in the state should it get the green light.
“Eight megawatts on-shore is probably about as big as they are so far and that’s probably the biggest I’ve heard of them,” Mr Wood said.
“People are talking about building off-shore wind farms which are up to 10MW or more but they’re in a very different situation so I don’t think there would be any other turbines in Victoria at the moment that would be as big as these.
“That’s a pretty big piece of infrastructure … and it’s a pretty substantial change to the environment.”
He said robust community engagement from the early stages of a renewable energy project was essential for its eventual success.
“I don’t think divide and conquer is a very good strategy – I’m not suggesting this company is doing that – but I think a better approach is to address the overall community,” he said.
“There’s been times where these sorts of projects have split communities because some people are getting a significant amount of money and don’t mind having a wind turbine on their property and other people are not getting money and do mind or some combination of both.”
Mr Wood said a major hurdle for the project would be how to tap into the electricity grid.
“The wind farm will have to be connected to the transmission system at some point and that will require a transmission line and an easement which will be part of the planning process,” he said.
“Depending on where that is, it will obviously involve community or environmental issues to be resolved.
Local MP and Member for Eildon Cindy McLeish, a former environment and climate change Liberal Party spokesperson, said information about the wind farm project was scarce.
“I’ve heard very little about it and the only things I have heard are whispers in the community,” she said.
“Part of the consultation process should involve the councils, the neighbours and the wider community.
“You need to approach people to get a viable project up, but you can’t keep all the neighbours in the dark and these projects shouldn’t be secretive.
FERA and Tilt Renewables were both contacted for comment but failed to respond by deadline.
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