More than six months after it gained federal government approval, Pacific Hydro's AUS$270 million Portland Wind Energy Project has been given the go ahead by Victoria's state government. Opposition to the 180 MW project remains, however. Allegations have been made in parliament that the panel selected for a revised Environmental Effects Statement was stacked to produce a favourable result. Furthermore, critics are unhappy that Pacific Hydro board membe, Mike Fitzpatrick chaired the Infrastructure Planning Council which recommended "removing impediments to the development and use of renewable energy." In a statement refuting the allegations, Pacific Hydro says it "supports the democratic process which allows the planning minister to balance the concerns of objectors with the long term future benefits of projects such as the Portland wind project." The project will see 120 NEG Micon 1.5 MW turbines installed at Cape Bridgewater, Cape Nelson, Cape Sir William Grant and Yambuk in south-west Victoria (Windpower Monthly, November 2002). Construction of the first stage at Yambuk is expected to begin before the end of the year, with work on the remaining three sites to start in mid-2004, once NEG Micon's proposed blade manufacturing facility is built, the company says. The government is currently finalising its agreement with NEG Micon for the facility. To gain final approval, Pacific Hydro had to relocate seven turbines in the Cape Bridgewater area in response to environmental concerns. The new layout "retains the economic viability of the entire project," says the company's Jeff Harding.
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