A group of King Island residents opposed to plans for a $2 billion wind farm on the Bass Strait island have launched legal action to stop the project from going ahead. Lawyers representing the No TasWind Farm Group issued a writ in the Federal Court late on Wednesday, seeking an injunction on any works connected with the proposed wind farm – which would be the largest in the southern hemisphere – including the planned feasibility study.
The group claims wind farm developer Hydro Tasmania failed to obtain a social licence for the 200-turbine project, after a ballot of islanders in late June returned a 58.7 per cent ‘yes’ vote – just shy of the company’s mooted 60 per cent target, put forward by former CEO Roy Adair. The writ also alleges HydroTas has breached its contract with the community by reneging on a pledge to halt the controversial project if less than 60 per cent of islanders voted in favour of it proceeding.
The documents also claim that the feasibility study has the potential to harm the island by creating ongoing uncertainty in the tourism sector and is a disincentive to ongoing investment. Hydro Tasmania has been contacted for comment. The Australian reports that HydroTas has said there is a difference between statements made by Hydro employees in relation to the 60 per cent figure and “perceptions formed about that figure by some”.
The sound of history repeating
Tablelands Regional Council in Queensland will launch a new investigation into noise levels at the Windy Hill wind farm, the only one in the state, marking the third time in recent months noise from turbines at the Ravenshoe, Queensland, wind farm have been measured. The council announced last week it would call for tenders from expert consultants – a move Ratch executive general manager, Geoff Dutton, has described as a “waste of scarce ratepayers’ funds,” with an independent report, commissioned by Ratch, already having found that noise levels complied with original development approval.
Carins.com.au reports that the original sound monitoring was undertaken after nearby resident Colin Walkden complained about the noise at his property. Last month, consultants employed by the TRC did a peer review of that data and agreed that it was within the limits – although only just. The closeness of this result prompted the Council to call for tenders to monitor the noise anew, arguing that until now they only had Ratch’s data to go on. “The council wants to ensure that the monitoring is done fairly and is not reliant upon the data or information supplied only by the operator,” said Councillor Marjorie Pagani.
Wind vs gas: Setting the record straight
The owners of the gas-fired power station in Esperance, WA, have published an open letter in the local newspaper, to debunk claims made in an August article that locally connected wind farms are constrained for commercial reasons, to allow the power station to operate. In an article titled “Wind farms take precedence,” Neville Selby, Transfield Worley Power Services’ Esperance area manager, said that this claim was a “fundamental error” and that, in fact, the complete opposite was true. “Most of the time, Esperance uses all the electricity the wind farms produce, and the power station makes up any shortfall so that a reliable supply of electricity is always available,” he wrote.
“This virtuous circle means the power station operates to balance the output of the wind farms with the need of Esperance’s residents and businesses. When the wind blows hard, the power station backs off and vice-versa,” Selby said. “Occasionally, overnight, Esperance’s electricity load is so low that not all the wind farm output is needed. On these rare occasions the wind farms are limited so the system does not become unstable.” Selby notes that rather than benefitting from reduced output of the wind farms, the power station would benefit from an increase, due to savings made on the “considerable cost of gas,” and closes by saying that his company “look(s) forward to a time when Esperance has grown to such an extent that the output of the wind farms are never constrained.”