The plans of Australian renewables developer Epuron to build an up to 300MW wind farm in the central highlands of Tasmania have been trimmed by three turbines, in a new revision of the proposed project’s layout.
Epuron said on Tuesday that it had revised the layout of the St Patricks Plains project, including a reduction in the total number of turbines from 50 to 47, to reduce visual impacts and align with community feedback.
“Based on the collated data from eight seasons (two years) of eagle utilisation surveys and other studies including flora and fauna, aboriginal and cultural heritage, electromagnetic interference, noise and visual impact, the final layout for the wind farm includes 47 wind turbines,” a company statement said.
The company also released a map of the project, pictured below, including the removed turbines and “noise contours.”
The St Patricks Plains wind farm, which at one point proposed the installation of 67 turbines, before being pared back to 50, and now 47, is proposed for a site south-east of Milena in Tasmania’s Central Highlands.
The site, which Epuron says has strong consistent winds, encompasses rural properties alongside the main transmission corridor between Hobart and Launceston, on ridges currently used for forestry plantations.
As Epuron points out here, it is also within Tasmania’s Midlands Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) – one of three in Tasmania identified by the Australian Energy Market Operator as optimal for new projects.
But this does not guarantee the wind farm’s approval – and particularly not in terms of social licence. At least one community group has been formed in opposition to the project, called NTAG, or No Turbine Action Group. And it’s not happy with the latest revision from Epuron.
In a statement on Wednesday, NTAG said Epuron had “no social licence” for building a wind farm in what it described as a “biodiversity hotspot” and said the company’s latest revision of the project’s layout was “a token effort.”
“It will destroy the Highlands brand,” said the group’s chair, David Ridley. “Epuron hasn’t listened to the community. Its response has been to ignore strongly voiced objections at community meetings in February this year and remove a token three turbines.
“The proposal started with 13 turbines, then Epuron put in an ambit claim for 67 and now pat themselves on the back for industrialising the landscape … taking away the uniqueness of the Central Highlands and ignoring the sensitivity of the sub-alpine location.
“St Patricks Plains site is a biodiversity hotspot and has 45 threatened plants including 12 nationally threatened plants,” Ridley added.
“Epuron has not adopted best practice setbacks from turbines for the many on-site Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle nests but applied inappropriate 1km buffer distances developed 35 years ago for ground-based forestry operations, totally irrelevant for noisy turbines that are three times the height of the Wrest Point Casino.”
Donna Bolton, Epuron’s general manager of development in Tasmania, told ABC Radio Hobart on Wednesday that two year – or eight seasons – of on-site eagle studies – had given the company “huge amounts of information” about how the eagles were using the site.
“So we’ve used all that information to avoid the areas of the site that are preferred by eagles and to inform the layout,” Bolton said.
(To read about how one of Tasmania’s biggest operational wind farms has prevented eagle deaths using cutting edge technology, click here.)
Epuron, which is also behind a wind farm proposed for the state’s north, said on Tuesday that it was currently preparing to lodge an EIS for St Patricks Plains and, pending its acceptance, would put the project on public exhibition and give community members an opportunity to weigh in.
As RenewEconomy has reported, the project is just one in a spate of wind farms currently proposed for Australia’s smallest state, including the potentially massive Robbins Island project, which has faced strong local opposition, including from Greens founder and distinguished environmentalist, Bob Brown.
Muddying the social licence waters further for developers and regulators is the significant amount of new network infrastructure that needs to be built to connect some of those proposed wind farms to the island state’s main grid, as well as to accommodate a second undersea link to the mainland.
In the case of the 200MW Jim’s Plain wind farm, which UPC\AC is developing alongside the 340MW Robbins Island project to the north, two transmission lines will be required to accommodate the projects on the local grid.