Plans to build a massive wind farm in Tasmania have come up against an unlikely opponent, with Australian Greens founder Bob Brown adding his voice to protests that the project will damage views and ecology on the island state.
UPC Renewables’ Robbins Island wind farm is slated for development on privately owned land in the north-west, as one of two wind energy projects totalling between 600-1000MW in capacity.
Plans for the two projects were unveiled in mid-2017, and said to be targeting “some of the best proven wind resources in the world,” according to UPC CEO Anton Rohner.
As we reported at the time, the wind farms’ construction in a state already nearly 100 per cent renewable powered hinge largely on plans to use Tasmania as a “renewable energy battery” for the nation, connected to the mainland via a new under-sea transmission line, although it has said that part of the proposal can go ahead without that link.
But Brown – who has been leading a major protest campaign to stop the Adani Carmichael coal mine from going ahead – says the clean energy benefits of the project are outweighed by its impacts on scenery and bird life.
“The world needs energy efficiency and renewable energy to replace fossil fuels, and fast,” Brown says in a letter published on his foundation’s website.
“However … this Robbins Island wind farm is an aileron too far.
“Firstly, the Tasmanian public, including the people of the North-West of the island, has not been properly informed of the private deals, or public impacts or cost-benefit analyses (economic, social, cultural and environmental) of this, one of the biggest wind farm projects on Earth.
“Mariners will see this hairbrush of tall towers from 50km out to sea and elevated landlubbers will see it, like it or not, from greater distances on land.
“Its eye-catchiness will divert from every coastal scene on the western Bass Strait coastline.
“Besides the impact on the coastal scenery, wind turbines kill birds. Wedge-tailed eagle and white-bellied sea eagles nest and hunt on the island. Swift parrots and orange-bellied parrots traverse the island on their migrations,” he said.
Brown also objects to the construction of new transmission lines to transport the energy generated at Robbins Island, which he says would cut through “wild and scenic Tasmania.”
“Why not use the more direct, much less environmentally destructive route aligning the Bass Highway? Better still, in the name of private enterprise, why not UPC build its own cable under the Strait from Robbins Island straight to wherever?” Brown says.
Last month, the Burnie Advocate reported that UPC Renewables had a draft proposal to install a 170km transmission line from Sheffield to Robbins Islands to service the two wind farms.
But these plans have raised the ire of a number of local farmers, with the line set to cut through as many as 17 private properties via a 60-metre-wide easement.
According to Tasmania Greens leader Cassy O’Connor, landowners had received letters from UPC saying compulsory land acquisition of part of their property may have to occur if agreement could not be reached.
Tasmania energy minister Guy Barnett said compulsory acquisition was available to licensed entities which provided electricity or gas infrastructure, but was “a last resort.”
“I won’t speculate on any statutory decisions I might need to make as a minister in the future,” he said.
UPC, meanwhile, are said to be in the early stages of development planning and environmental approval processes for Robbins Island, including consultation with community.