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Australia

Australia

NIMBY victory over wind farm in Victoria

Plans for a 20 MW wind farm in Victoria have been brought to an abrupt halt. The state government's Administrative Appeals Tribunal has upheld objections by a small group of landholders near the proposed wind farm site at Cape Bridgewater on grounds of visual amenity. Planning approval for the wind farm siting application has been refused.

Just when it was looking like Australia would finally get serious about wind power in 1999, plans for a much heralded 20 MW wind farm in the state of Victoria have been brought to an abrupt halt. The state government's Administrative Appeals Tribunal has upheld objections by a small group of landholders near the proposed wind farm site at Cape Bridgewater on grounds of visual amenity. Planning approval for Energy Equity's 20 MW wind farm siting application has been refused.

The first reaction of the company's Matthew Rosser to the bad news was that the whole project is "dead and buried." But he has since learned there may be an avenue for appeal. The project is supported by the local Glenelg council and it, too, is "bitterly disappointed" at the decision, according to town planner Bernie Wilder. He says the tribunal's decision seems to have ignored a new town plan that came into effect on December 24. This element, he says, may be a basis for appeal by Energy Equity.

Wilder calls the decision "obscene" and says a small NIMBY protest has meant that clean electricity will be denied for 15,000 homes. He notes the proposed wind farm of 33 turbines met all the requirements of statute authorities and nearby aboriginal groups. "Even the National Trust, who initially opposed the wind farm, came to support it."

Glenelg was hoping to dovetail the wind farm into its geothermal program (used to heat public buildings) and new forestry operations to give the council a lead in the provision of green energy that might also be a tourist draw. Ironically, the area is the biggest user of electricity in the state due to an aluminium smelter that has tremendous visual impacts.

Anna Selleh from the Australian Consumer's Association knocks the decision too, noting that currently there is a shortage of wind power for green power schemes. "It's a real shame that this wind farm, which would have benefited such a large number of consumers, has been stopped by what appears to be a handful of people not willing to negotiate," she says.

After nearly four years of wind monitoring, Rosser notes that the Cape Bridgewater site was the best -- and most economical -- site in Victoria. Development of the wind farm was announced more than a year ago and it should have been up and running by the end of last year, tripling Australia's wind capacity.

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