Christmas has come early for federal Coalition MP Barnaby Joyce, with Goldwind Australia winning approval to more than double the capacity of the 175MW White Rock wind farm in Joyce’s New South Wales electorate of New England.
The $300 million extension to the existing wind farm, located between Glen Innes and Inverell, was approved by the NSW Independent Planning Commission on Friday last week, after it ruled that the addition of 48 bigger and more powerful turbines “had merit,” and was “in the public interest.”
The project was referred to the Commission after the application to add the extra turbines received well more than the minimum of 25 public objections during exhibition.
A large number of the objections centred on the increased proportions of the new turbines, which will have a maximum tip height of 200 metres and rotor diameter from of 140 metres or 170 metres – a 50m increase in height and 59m increase in rotor diameter compared to the original lot.
In its Statement of Reasons for Decision, however, the Commission said it had determined to approved the application, after carefully considering all the evidence and weighing the community’s views.
“The Commission finds that the Project, carried out subject to the imposed conditions, achieves a reasonable balance between maximising the use of the wind resource and managing potential impacts on the environment and surrounding landowners.”
In particular, the Commission noted that the upgrade to White Rock would contribute 995,000MWh a year of renewables to the National Electricity Market help cut greenhouse gas emissions.
As reported on RenewEconomy back in May 2016, the first stage of the White Rock wind farm, with 70 turbines totalling 175MW of capacity, was the first major wind project to be approved after the passage of the federal government’s pared-back RET.
It was also notable for attracting Joyce – at the time Australia’s deputy PM – to the sod turning for stage one of the project; shovel, hard hat, high vis and all, as you can see in the image above.
Joyce has not always been known for his support of Australia’s renewable energy industry, nor for efforts to mitigate human induced climate change, the science behind which he has declared himself “always skeptical.”
Just recently, Joyce distinguished himself further by auctioning off a lump of coal in a glass jar at National Party a fundraiser.
Still, he is on the record as being supportive of White Rock – at least in its first iteration.
“The project at White Rock will drive innovation and create the jobs of the future, while delivering a financial benefit from the investment of public money,’ he said at the wind farm’s original launch over three years ago.
“(It) will be a fantastic boost for the local economy as it is expected to employ up to 200 people during the construction phase and generate 10 full-time positions over a 20 year period.
“This and other clean energy projects proposed for the region will ensure the New England is a major player in the field …and clean energy is essential to meet our emissions reduction targets.”
Merry Christmas, Barnaby!