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Australia

Australia

Victoria blocks new wind with setbacks

AUSTRALIA: The Australian state of Victoria will see new wind-energy projects stymied by new regulations that prohibit the construction of wind turbines within 2km of a residence, unless written consent from the landowner is obtained. The new rules also prohibit wind farm development in specificed 'no-go' zones, identified as having high conservation and/or landscape value.

Approximately A$3 billion (US$3.2 billion) in investment will be lost to Victoria as a result of the regulations, according to Matthew Warren, CEO of the Clean Energy Council. "More than half of future wind farms proposed in Victoria will not be built as a direct result of this policy," he claimed.

Dan Hansen, CEO of Suzlon Energy Australia, agreed that the new restrictions on wind development will severely curtail growth in the state. "We fail to understand the motivation to put these setbacks in because you can't just single out one particular industry and then make life really difficult," he said. "You can't have a single landowner basically holding your project to ransom; nobody can afford that."

Lane Crockett, general manager for Australia at hydroelectric and wind energy company Pacific Hydro, said the Victoria government had yet to properly identify the issue or problem it is trying to solve. "In our view these changes send a disturbing signal to other infrastructure projects and investment in the state," said Crockett.

It is not yet clear how the Victorian government's decision on setbacks and no-go zones might influence other states. The New South Wales government is currently reviewing its regulations and is considering new guidelines for wind farms. A spokesperson for minister for planning and infrastructure Brad Hazzard said it was premature to say whether minimum setbacks will feature.

More positively, the state of South Australia has no plans to follow Victoria's lead. State premier Mike Rann is openly supportive of the wind sector. "While in other states projects have stalled or been cancelled because of regulatory roadblocks and red tape, we have been hungry and have made it easier for the private sector to invest in wind power," he said.

South Australia is home to 54% of Australia's total wind capacity, with 534 installed turbines totalling 1.15GW. This represents more than 21% of the state's total electricity generation.

The latest indication of South Australia's market-leading position is news that Suzlon plans a A$1.3 billion wind farm, with a capacity of up to 600MW, to be located on the state's Yorke Peninsula.

The proposed Ceres Project would incorporate up to 180 turbines as well as a high-voltage direct-current submarine connection to the state capital, Adelaide. Suzlon has also proposed a pilot biomass power plant and is assessing the feasibility of installing solar photovoltaics on the same site. The project is at an early development stage and has yet to receive environmental and other regulatory controls. It is scheduled to come online in 2015.

Suzlon's Hansen explained that the Ceres project was initiated by Yorke Peninsula farmers and local developers and has been "widely recognised as a good thing" by the local community. "There will always be controversy around a large project but ... our experience so far would suggest that since this (project) started with the local community it should be less controversial than elsewhere," added Hansen.

The project has received informal endorsement from the state government, with premier Rann saying it will "catapult" the state towards achieving its target of 33% renewable-energy generation by 2020.

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