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NSW wind farm approved, as health concerns dismissed

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Infigen Energy has won final approval for its 33-turbine Bodangora wind farm, and notched up an important win against the anti-wind movement, after the NSW Planning Assessment Commission dismissed community concerns that noise from the turbines would affect their health.

The wind farm, planned for Bodangora, near Dubbo in central NSW, was approved by the PAC late last week, after it conducted a public hearing in the town.

The commission said that, while NSW Health found that noise from the turbines “may cause some disturbance” to those living within 700 metres of the towers, it “was very clear in its advice” that there was “no published scientific evidence to link wind turbines with adverse health effects”. It also found the planned 2km buffer zone to be “highly conservative” and “a very precautionary approach”. Objections had come from a small group of people, including a representative from a prison farm nearly 6kms from the planned site.

Infigen’s senior development manager for the 100-megawatt project, Frank Boland, welcomed the commission’s ruling, describing it as comforting to the industry, as well as to anyone with health concerns about the project.

“We don’t see any causal link between wind turbines and health, full stop,” Boland said, adding that the NSW Health statement was “relevant to other states”, and could help secure planning approval for the company’s similar-sized wind farm planned by for Flyers Creek, south of Orange, and for other projects

Infigen’s $200 million Bogandora project has had a rocky road to approval, dividing the local community and even drawing opposition from a nearby maximum security jail.

At a public meeting in July, Fairfax newspapers report that officers from the maximum security Wellington Correctional Centre, located about 10km from the wind farm, raised concerns about health risks to staff and inmates.

At the same time, a number of local farmers were happy to host turbines, and Infigen says it is confident the community divide will narrow once people saw the benefits – and no health impacts.

Host farms will receive about $10,000 a year from each turbine, and the company will contribute around 2 per cent of its revenue from one turbine and $85,000 to the local community.

Infigen will now seek to secure a power purchase agreement, with the aim of starting construction on the wind farm by mid to late 2014.

Wellington Mayor, Rod Buhr, told ABC News he does not expect work on the Infigen Energy project to start “anytime soon” because of an oversupply of wholesale electricity.

“When we spoke to the proponent last about this, they hadn’t actually secured any electricity contracts at this stage,” Buhr said. “So they were going to be out doing that once the project was approved and we got the impression from what they were saying that that wasn’t going to be an easy thing.”  

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