Council calls on government to restart wind farm consultation
Credit: Sue Murray | May 3, 2023 | coastcommunitynews.com.au ~~
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Central Coast Council is calling for more information and community consultation before the Federal Government makes a decision on whether to establish a renewable energy area with wind turbines in the Pacific Ocean off the Central Coast and Hunter.
The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is proposing a Hunter Offshore Renewable Energy Area (HOREA) extending from Port Stephens to Norah Head, 10km off the coast, with turbines standing 250m above sea level.
Submissions for the project closed on April 28 but Council says it is premature to declare the HOREA until consultation is recommenced and further updated information is available onhow it will affect the community and environment, and people have the opportunity to provide informed feedback.
Council supports transition to net zero emissions but says the consultation material so far, including the name of the proposed area, does not reflect likely impacts on the Central Coast, instead focuses entirely on the Hunter.
Consultation and information sessions must include communities and groups that are most affected, such as the Norah Head community and Norah Head National Surfing Reserve which were not targeted in previous consultation, Council says in its submission.
“There is currently insufficient information available to demonstrate the environmental, economic and social impacts the proposed HOREA will have on the Central Coast, including on the terrestrial and marine environment, marine life and avian fauna, marine users and emergency services,” it says.
Council raised the issue of visual impact of the wind turbines which would be seen from a significant area of coastline especially as it was likely they would be lit at night.
Using a Radar Horizon Calculator, which considers the curvature of the earth, and then factoring in environmental considerations, Council estimates that on light wind days the turbines would be visible for up to 40km from the coastline.
In its submission, Council noted the expected benefits of the proposed HOREA – with opportunities to drive economic growth, support and create jobs, provide clean and affordable power and to help reach net zero by 2050 – must be shared with the Central Coast (which is part of an identified NSW Renewable Energy Zone) – and any offsets or compensatory measures from negative impacts must directly benefit the affected communities.
Clarification is required on whether the offshore renewable energy area is anticipated to increase in size, particularly to the south, with the likely expansion over time of the Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone.
Council’s submission raises many more detailed questions than the proposal in its present form answers, but must be addressed in the development assessment stage.
Council queries the method of anchoring wind turbines and evidence there is no risk of fixed points failing, which is essential due to the size and volume of cargo vessels in close proximity and the material they transport.
Although the HOREA proposal says the area will be shared, it also says there will be restrictions around specific infrastructure.
Will restrictions impact on aircraft or emergency services such as Marine Rescue?
Will there be changes to routes travelled by vessels to the Port of Newcastle or Port Kembla?
Council says land-based impacts should also be considered, including the launch site to facilitate construction of the infrastructure, maintenance access and supply of energy to the mainland including how and where cables transporting the energy generated from the HOREA be ported to land, as well as onshore infrastructure requirements such as grid connection, cable landing facility, converter stations and onshore substation.
It is assumed that access to high voltage power lines near the Eraring, Vales Point and former Munmorah power stations will drive development within the HOREA.
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