German energy giant RWE seeks social license for 1GW wind project in western Victoria

wind farm germany rwe
Image: RWE

German energy giant RWE is moving ahead on plans to develop an up to 1000MW wind farm at Campbells Bridge in Victoria’s Wimmera Region, including the all-important process of community engagement.

RWE is proposing to install 145 turbines on around 14,000 hectares of farmland at Campbells Bridge in the Northern Grampians and Yarriambiack shires.

The renewables developer says it has been conducting wind monitoring at the site since April 2022 and has now moved to the more detailed planning and approvals phase of the project, which will take between two and four years.

This includes specialist studies into factors such as cultural heritage, transport, noise, shadow flicker, ecology (fauna, flora), surface and ground water, visual, social and aviation.

Community engagement is also well underway, with a shopfront for the project set to open in Stawell in the new year and drop-in information sessions being scheduled.

RWE is also seeking feedback and suggestions on the administration of a Community Benefit Fund that would be created to provide financial support to local community groups, organisations and events.

The fund would be calculated at $3,200 per megawatt of project capacity, meaning that if the wind farm is approved at 1,000MW, it would generate $3.2 million dollars a year for the community.

“Importantly this is a community fund so we’ll be asking the community about how this fund can make a positive contribution,” said RWE Australia senior development manager Ash Clifton.

“We’re open to all ideas which could create opportunities for this part of the Wimmera.”

Clifton says RWE is committed to “meaningful community development, engagement and support,” with staff on the ground since 2022 meeting landholders who would host the turbines as well as neighbours and the wider community.

“We have door-knocked all dwellings located within 5km of the site boundary project to answer questions and collect feedback, and we have recently started meeting with residents within three kilometres of the proposed turbines.

“A community shopfront will open in Stawell in the new year as a place for people to ask questions and provide feedback on the Campbells Bridge Wind Farm project. We’ll also be holding drop-in information sessions Rupanyap and Glenorchy.”

“We will continue to update locals, community groups and other stakeholders with information about the project’s status as part of our open and transparent approach.”

This will be crucial to the project’s success. Already, a group has sprung up in opposition to the Campbells Bridge project, called the Southern Wimmera Renewables Research Association (SWRRA).

According to the group’s website, it is “not against renewables” but has “significant concerns about the Campbells Bridge Wind Facility proposed for our region.”

The group’s Facebook page, however, applauds the anti-renewables actions of Barnaby Joyce and calls for members to sign a national petition calling for a pause on renewable energy projects “until the industry is adequately regulated.”

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