An 800MW-1000MW wind power project proposed for Victoria’s Golden Plains Shire by German-backed outfit WestWind Energy has won planning approval from the state government, paving the way for what could be Australia’s largest wind farm.
Victoria’s energy minister and acting minister for planning Lily D’Ambrosio announced planning permit approval for the the Golden Plains Wind Farm over the weekend, a project she said would generate nearly 3,000 gigawatt hours of electricity per year.
“This project will create hundreds of local jobs, reduce greenhouse emissions and generate enough electricity to power more than 400,000 homes — boosting supply and putting downward pressure on power prices,” D’Ambrosio said.
It’s a good start to the year for WestWind, which has built hundreds of megawatts of wind farms in Germany, before shifting its focus to Australia, and in particular Victoria, with three other wind farms in various stages of the development pipeline.
These include the 321MW Moorabool wind farm project which was sold to Goldwind as a greenfield site, and the 216MW Lal Lal wind farm project, which was sold to Macquarie Capital.
Approval of the $1.5 billion Golden Plains Wind Farm, proposed for about 60km north-west of Geelong, followed the conclusion of the Environment Effects Statement (EES) at the end of 2018.
According to a government statement, the minister’s assessment of the EES supported the project, subject to increasing the turbine-free buffer area to ensure breeding wetlands used by native birdlife were adequately protected.
The amount of turbines could also be reduced, from 228 to 181, depending on how WestWind chooses to meet environmental restrictions.
In the meantime, the massive project will go to the federal government for approval and, if successful there, is expected to take around four years to build.
Golden Pains would add to a booming sector in Victoria, with other projects under construction including the Lal Lal, Moorabool, Murra Warra, Bulgana and Stockyard Hill wind farms.
And it further cements the state’s plans to reach 50 per cent renewbles by 2030 – a target introduced in the lead-up to last November’s state election, which the Labor Andrews government won comprehensively.
In September, WestWind stakeholder engagement manager Paige Ricci said the Golden Plains project had been in the pipeline for a long time, but that the “supportive state government” had made it “the right time to move forward.”
As we reported here, the size of the Golden Plains project – at almost double the 530MW wind farm the company is building at Stockyard Hill – means community engagement will be key to its success.
WestWind says the 39 host landowners will be offered a collective “drought proof” income, calculated based on the number of turbines within 2km of eligible dwellings: $1000 for each of the first three turbines, and $750 for each additional turbine that is constructed within 2km of their dwelling.
The annual payment – which will be adjusted for CPI, and will continue while the wind farm is operational – will begin when construction of the foundation of the turbines within 2km of their dwelling is complete.
On top of this, a community fund would be established once the Golden Plains Wind Farm was operational, to provide annual financial support of up to $235,000 a year ($1000 annually per turbine) for community-based initiatives, projects and events that benefit local communities around the wind farm.
A community investment program would also be set up, to allow neighbouring, non-host property owners living within 10km of the wind farm to invest in the project, and secure a financial return from it.