The Crookwell 3 wind farm, set to be built in the heart of federal energy minister Angus Taylor’s electorate, has been given the green light, after the NSW Land and Environment Court agreed to overturn a decision by NSW authorities to deny the project planning approval.
The NSW Land and Environment Court overturned the planning rejection initially issued by the NSW Independent Planning Commission, after a process of conciliation with the project’s developers, Global Power Generation, granting approval for 16 turbines to be constructed as part of stage 3 of the Crookwell development.
Global Power Generation had initially sought approval to build 23 turbines at the Crookwell site, located around 100km north of Canberra, but had offered to reduce the size of the development to just 17 turbines in response to feedback from local residents. The project will go ahead with just 16 turbines after the planning commission and project developers reached an agreement to proceed with the smaller wind farm.
The Land and Environment Court granted approval for the smaller wind farm development, with the removal of one additional turbine, with the final project set to add around 70MW of new generation capacity.
The decision has followed a process of negotiation between Global Power Generation and the NSW Independent Planning Commission after the entire project was scuttled by the planning commission last year.
Acting Commissioner Philip Clay overturned the prior refusal issued by the Independent Planning Commission on Wednesday, agreeing that the negotiated outcome reflected the decision that the court would have ultimately made if the issue had proceeded to a full hearing.
“At the conciliation conference the parties reached an agreement in principle as to the terms of a decision in the proceedings that would be acceptable to the parties. The proposed decision was to uphold the appeal and grant consent to part of the development the subject of the development application,” Acting Commissioner Clay said in his decision.
The decision has been welcomed by wind energy advocates, including the Australian Wind Alliance, which said the outcome was a positive development as New South Wales begins to develop a series of Renewable Energy Zones.
“This is an excellent result for the farmers who have fought for so long for this project and for the local businesses who can get back to work employing local people to build the Crookwell project,” Australian Wind Alliance national coordinator Andrew Bray told RenewEconomy.
“This resolution suggests that the concerns over visual impact in the preceding decisions on this project were overstated.”
“There is a clear path under the NSW guidelines for multiple projects to be built in the same region, as long as careful planning is adhered to. This is good news for future wind and solar development in NSW’s upcoming Renewable Energy Zones,” Bray added.
In its original decision, the Independent Planning Commission rejected the entire wind farm development, citing the cumulative impact of wind farm developments in the Crookwell region.
“The community raised a number of significant concerns about the visual impacts of the project on surrounding residences and the cumulative effect of wind farm projects with residences potentially able to view wind turbines in multiple viewing sectors,” the Commission said at the time.
The planning commission decided to block the project, following a referral from the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, which had recommended that planning approval for the project be refused.
Public submissions made in response to the project had been polarised, with some local residents, including a number of local farmers, supporting the development with the wind farm set to provide supplementary revenues
The project attracted the ire of some familiar opponents to wind energy, including former Abbott business advisor Maurice Newman, who owns property in the Crookwell region but resides in Sydney, who made personal submissions to the planning commission calling for the development to be blocked.
The wind farm will be built in Taylor’s electorate of Hume. Taylor was an outspoken opponent to wind energy developments prior to taking responsibility for the energy portfolio, and joined a ‘National Wind Power Fraud Rally’ where he criticised wind farms in his electorate.
Taylor’s electorate is already host to around half-a-dozen wind energy developments, and is now set to see at least one more.
Global Power Generation has previously completed the 91MW Crookwell Stage 2 wind farm, the opening of which Taylor was unable to attend, and recently secured a deal to supply the ACT with electricity from the second stage of the Berrybank wind farm in Victoria, along with an agreement to construct a 10MW/20MWh big battery within the ACT as part of the deal.