Australia plan largest wind energy project on Tasmanian coast

AUSTRALIA: A remote island off the north west coast of Tasmania could become home to Australia's largest and most ambitious wind farm.

Utility Hydro Tasmania has begun community consultation on King Island for its proposed 600MW TasWind farm, which would deliver wind energy to the National Electricity Market (NEM) via an undersea cable to Victoria.

With a price tag of A$2 billion (US$2.08 billion), the project requires a minimum of 200 turbines to be economically viable, which would see turbines stretch across approximately 20% of the small Bass Strait island.

It is still early days, however, and Hydro Tasmania is quick to stress that the project's future is far from certain. The company has only just entered into the pre-feasibility phase, with a planned three-month community consultation process due to be completed in late February 2013.

In a statement, Hydro Tasmania's chairman David Crean said the project is dependent on community support. "The project will only proceed to full feasibility if the majority of King Islanders are in favour."

"King Island is ideal for hosting wind turbines, due to its exposure to the famous 'Roaring Forties', a world class wind resource. However, we don't have definite ideas yet about the siting of turbines or what the wind farm would look like."

The proposed undersea cable would link the project on King Island to the NEM. Over time, this cable could be extended to become a second interconnector between Tasmania and the mainland, opening up more opportunities for Tasmanian renewable energy projects. Critically, Tasmania is not hindered by onerous planning policies such as those in place in Victoria, where there are wind farm exclusion zones and a mandatory minimum two kilometre set back limit between turbines and homes.

If it proceeds, Taswind would be completed by 2018, in time to contribute to Australia's 20% by 2020 renewables target.

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