A troubled wind farm project proposed for the New South Wales Southern Tablelands has again been rejected by the state government’s Department of Planning and Environment, nearly three years after being sent back to the drawing board.
The Jupiter Wind Farm, proposed for development south-east of Tarago by Australian-Spanish joint venture EPYC, was this week rejected by the department as “fundamentally unsuitable” to the site and surrounds – despite being downsized by almost half, to 54 turbines.
It will now go to the Planning Assessment Commission for the final determination, but the department has recommended approval of the project should be refused.
Director of Resource and Energy Assessments Mike Young said the department “considered the application on its merits, but found it would have unacceptable visual impacts on almost half of the 110 homes located near the project.
“The proposal is inconsistent with local planning controls, which classify a third of the proposed site as an environmental management zone,” Young said.
The department also said it received 400 objections from the local community and interest groups during the exhibition period.
Back in October 2015, the project was rejected for the first time by the Department, for failing to adequately assess the visual and noise impacts of the turbines, or to properly consult with local residents.
The wind farm was originally designed with a capacity of 350MW, or 100 turbines, to be sited on a 12,000 hectare stretch of agricultural land, hosted by 25 different landholders.
As we reported at the time, that group in the past had political support from NSW Liberal MP, Pru Goward, who was active in the anti-wind movement in the NSW-ACT region, particularly when she was minister for health.
“Increasingly, I am on the view that there is some validity on the health effects,” she told a community meeting in 2015. “There are a number of people with health problems … it is clearly not psychosomatic.
“They impact upon the landscape and have an immediate effect upon land value… I am with this community and plan on putting pressure on the state government.”
For Jupiter Wind Farm, that mix of community and political pressure seems to have been the project’s undoing.
But notably, EPYC has been criticised, even from within its own wind industry ranks, for its part in failing to engage properly with the locals.
“There are plenty of examples Australia-wide of wind power projects having long-lasting and beneficial impacts for local communities – both financially and socially,” said Australian Wind Alliance national coordinator, Andrew Bray.
“However, it is critical that these projects have effective and transparent community engagement from the start to ensure the project delivers good outcomes for everyone,” he told the Goulburn Post.
“In this instance, that crucial engagement did not happen and this threatened to negatively affect community views not just on this project, but on wind power generally.
“We were concerned about this so we felt it was important to speak out in support of the community and object to the project.”