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Residents reject plans to host wind farm transmission lines on their land in south-east Victoria 

Credit:  "VicGrid says residents are 'confused' over transmission lines planned for the south-east" | By Fiona Broom | 17 May 2023 | abc.net.au ~~

Rosedale farmer Noel Anderson is opposing a new transmission line on his property.(Fiona Broom, ABC Rural)

Coastal residents and farmers say they remain in the dark about plans for transmission lines and wind farms off Victoria’s eastern coast.

While some residents have been told their properties are in line to host major energy infrastructure, they say they have heard nothing from authorities to confirm reports that some plans are on hold.

About 50 Gippsland properties are on energy delivery company AusNet’s preferred route to transmit wind power to the grid, despite it having no guarantee of getting the job.

The Australian Energy Market Operator has identified six renewable energy zones in Victoria to meet a national green energy target of 80 per cent by 2030.

The patchwork of organisations involved is causing confusion among communities.

A map detailing Victoria’s designated renewable energy zones. (Supplied: DEECA)

Renewable energy push

The Victorian government body VicGrid was established about two years ago to coordinate infrastructure connecting new renewable energy projects to the grid.

In Gippsland, that will mean linking future offshore wind power to existing power grid infrastructure in the Latrobe Valley, where coal-fired power stations are on their way out.

“We’ve certainly had feedback in our community sessions that people are just a little bit confused, because there’s a lot of proponents around, and that’s why [the] government stepped in and gave us this mandate to coordinate things,” VicGrid chief executive officer Alistair Parker said.

AusNet has already proposed a route for the transmission line, which has been opposed by farmers whose properties are needed to host the infrastructure.

That proposed route is now on hold, according to Mr Parker, who says AusNet and other energy distributors will need to compete for the project.

“Obviously we know AusNet well. AusNet own most of the transmission network in Victoria,” he said.

“But in Victoria we absolutely have the principle of competition in transmission, so every time we need a new bit of transmission we go out to the market.

“[AusNet] are still working obviously with landholders and so on, but we’ve asked them just to take a pause.”

But that message has not reached landowners who have been told they will be hosting the infrastructure, and the Australian government says it is time communication improved.

Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen this week warned energy companies they needed to get communities on board with renewable projects.

“I have a simple request for everyone involved in the sector, in the roll out of transmission: Please focus on community consultation and do it as well as is possible,” Mr Bowen told an energy conference.

Overground opposition

At a VicGrid public consultation in central Gippsland in early May, Rosedale farmer Noel Anderson came armed with a map he had been provided by AusNet, which showed four 80-metre towers connecting the transmission line diagonally across his property.

Mr Anderson said he turned up to tell AusNet he opposed the line and to lobby for an underground connection.

“We can’t tolerate overhead on our place. We’d see it everyday,” Mr Anderson said.

“We’d lose 22 acres [9 hectares] of a 200-acre [31ha] property. That’s over a tenth.”

Mr Anderson, who farms sheep and cattle, says underground gas pipelines on his land do not cause him any problems.

“If we want a fence over the top, they guide us where to do it safely, so the same could be done with this electric line,” he said.

Mr Parker said the organisation would consider underground lines, but argued there were safety risks involved with running high voltage transmission underground.

“I don’t want to be misleading. It has other impacts to go underground and it is very expensive, but that’s something we’ll work through,” he said.

“I think there’s a bit of controversy about this, but my understanding is more farming activities can be done under transmission lines.

“Whereas with underground there’s a more limited range of activities that can be undertaken. You can still graze, but the operators would be very concerned about anybody digging near an underground cable.”

Still seeking answers

David Lawther lives at The Honeysuckles, a small town tucked on a narrow patch of land between the coast and the Gippsland Lakes.

He has attended to multiple public consultations looking for details about the wind farms.

“I didn’t get any answers today,” Mr Lawther said about a meeting on May 4.

“I didn’t find out the footprint that they’re going to take up. The height, the gigawatt size, I didn’t find that out either.”

The federal government is developing regulations for offshore wind infrastructure, which will include requirements for licence holders to “meaningfully” consult with local communities throughout the life of a project.

A spokesperson for the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water says the federal Offshore Infrastructure Registrar is currently assessing applications for the Gippsland wind zone.

The registrar will advise the federal Climate Change and Energy Minister on the suitability of each proposal and the first licences that are expected to be granted this year.

Source:  "VicGrid says residents are 'confused' over transmission lines planned for the south-east" | By Fiona Broom | 17 May 2023 | abc.net.au

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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