Plans to build one of Australia’s largest wind farms in Victoria’s Golden Plains Shire are back on track, after a last-ditch High Court challenge to the 800 to 1000MW project was put to bed.
German-backed, but locally-based, renewables developer WestWind said on Friday that it had applied to amend the planning permit for the Golden Plains Wind Farm, seeking to make a number of small changes to the project’s design, including an increase in the rotor size of the turbines.
In a statement on the project’s website, WestWind said it was seeking – among other things – approval for an increase in the size of the turbine rotor diameter from 150m to 165m to allow for the installation of more current turbine technology. The tip height would not change from 230m as currently permitted, it said.
The planning amendments follow closely on a decision from the High Court of Australia to dismiss an application (with costs) to hear a case brought by opponents to the wind farm last month, which had been defeated in the Victorian Supreme Court and – in August of last year – the Court of Appeal.
Opponents to the project – represented by the same lawyer leading a five-year legal battle against another Victorian wind project, Bald Hills – were seeking to overturn the project’s state government-granted planning approval, based on concerns about brolga breeding sites.
Ironically, over the course of time taken up by the various legal challenges, wind energy technology has continued to improve, with turbine blade sizes increasing to allow for the generation of more energy.
“Due to the significant project time delays from the legal challenges, there have been more advances in turbine technology into the market with rotor size increases being one of the advances,” WestWind spokesperson Erin Gray was quoted as saying to the Geelong Advertiser this week.
“There is no change to the project boundary and no increase to the number of previously approved turbines.”
On the Golden Plains website, WestWind said that the latest generation of machines with larger rotors would allow the project to generate roughly 10 to 14 per cent more electricity without increasing the overall height of the turbines.
WestWind said on Friday it was also seeking approval on a modified site plan for turbines – the numbers of which are likely to be reduced slightly, from 228 to 215, due to the increased capacity of each.
The company said these modifications and those of all associated infrastructure had been proposed in compliance with with the Brolga Breeding Buffer permit condition that had been agreed with the state planning minister in the previously approved planning application.
As RenewEconomy has reported, it has been a long journey for the Golden Plains wind farm, with the original plans for a $1.7 billion, 231-turbine project formally proposed in early 2017 after “sitting on the books” for years, the company had said, awaiting the right political and economic environment.
“(The project has) been in the pipeline for a long time and we’ve been monitoring wind in the Golden Plains area for years now,” said WestWind stakeholder engagement manager Paige Ricci in comments to Power Engineering back in 2017.
“Now we have a supportive state government in particular we think it’s the right time to move forward.”
In a statement on Friday, WestWind said it would be hosting community ‘drop-in’ sessions to offer locals “visual representations” of the project and proposed amendments, and to provide further information. These session would be held at the following times:
Thursday 4 February, 10am-4pm
Saturday 6 February, 9am – 12pm
Barunah Park Hall
Wednesday 10 February, 4-7.30pm