Victoria approval despite opposition -- Strong leadership by government

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The 104 MW Bald Hills wind farm planned for Victoria is ready to go ahead. Consisting of 52, 2 MW turbines, the A$220 million project is being developed by local company Wind Power Pty. "Over 400 MW, which is forty per cent of the state government's target for 1000 MW of wind energy by 2006 has now been built, or given planning approval," says Victoria premier Steve Bracks.

The decision to approve Bald Hills has attracted criticism, with Peter Ryan, leader of Victoria's National Party, claiming the government has ignored the concerns of the local community, the South Gippsland Shire Council and local environmental bodies. The National Party has called for a 12 month moratorium on wind farms within 30 kilometres of the coast. Bracks and his planning minister, Mary Delahunty, defend their decision, noting the project was subject to two Environmental Effects Statements before being given approval (Windpower Monthly, November 2003).

"Planning permit conditions require a comprehensive environmental management plan to be implemented to ensure that potential ecological impacts are monitored and rigorously managed," says Delahunty. "I do understand the concerns of the community. I've heard them one-on-one, but planning is about balancing competing interests and indeed this government is happy to make the hard decisions in the interests of the whole state."

Meantime, Wind Power Pty's plan for what could be the biggest wind farm in Australia is out to consultation. If it proceeds, the 207 MW development will be built at Waubra, 29 kilometres north-west of Ballarat, at a cost of more than A$300 million. "The planning application considers up to 138 Repower 1.5 megawatt machines," says Wind Power's Peter Lausberg, referring to Germany's publicly traded wind turbine manufacturer, which is knocking on the door of the wind industry's big league. "We hope for a permit for construction this year."

Transmitting the power to customers, a thorny issue in many parts of Australia with a relatively undeveloped network, is not likely to be a problem at Waubra. Under the proposal, the wind station's electricity is to be distributed to the national grid via connection to the Ballarat Horsham 220 kV transmission line.

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