Call for debate … then approval
16th January, 2021
By Mandy Squires, The Herald Sun
Developers of a sprawling Gippsland windfarm with turbines among the tallest in the country have sought an independent panel to assess and approve the project.
The proposed Delburn Wind Farm in the Strzelecki Ranges, to the south of the Latrobe Valley, will have 33 turbines, each as tall as the Rialto Tower and span three shires.
Objectors claim the 250m turbines pose a fire risk and may hamper the efforts of water bombing and retardant-spraying aircraft in the blaze prone part of Victoria.
They claim the towering turbines could start fires if they malfunctioned and interrupt radio signals and other communication vital for fire-fighting.
Four planning applications were lodged with the Victorian government two days before Christmas by Peter Marriott, director of renewable energy development company OSMI Australia, to begin work on the $360m windfarm project. The December 23 permit applications seek approval to develop and use the land for a “wind energy facility”.
The applications also seek to remove native vegetation, construct buildings, erect signs and carry out other works, including installation of a permanent anemometer – for measuring wind speed and direction – and the building of a substation.
Mr Marriott last week urged the government to convene an independent planning panel to hear the concerns of objectors and company plans, and hopefully fast-track approval of the project.
“OSMI has requested the project be ‘called in’ by the Minister for Planning to allow an independent planning panel to be convened, giving the community the opportunity to put forward their views … through a public hearing process,” he said.
If approved, construction of the windfarm – overlooking the decommissioned Hazelwood power plant – is expected to start next year and produce enough clean energy to power 125,000 homes.
A spokeswoman for the objectors, Sindy Van Eede, from the Strzelecki Community Alliance, said residents of hundreds of homes were concerned about the planned wind turbines for a variety of reasons, including fire risk, noise and the potential loss of bushland and koala habitat.
“This proposal goes across three shires, South Gippsland, Baw Baw and Latrobe, where most of the turbines will be located,” she said, adding the majority of objectors were supportive of clean energy in principle but concerned about the risk of huge wind turbines in heavily wooded areas.
“The site is inappropriate, given the amount of fire risk that already exists … this is a pine plantation, which is surrounded by natural bush.”
A government spokeswoman said the planning applications were under review.