A 132MW wind farm proposed for construction at Steeple Flat in south-east New South Wales has amended its plans to include fewer – but taller – turbines, ahead of seeking environmental approval by the state government.
The Granite Hills wind farm, proposed for 12km south-east of Nimmitabel, is being led by French company Akuo Energy, in partnership with a small local outfit called Willy Willy, whose founders live within a few hundred kilometres of the proposal site.
According to local reports, Akuo announced late last week that it had “updated and improved” the layout of the state significant project, reducing the number of turbines from 32 to 23, but increasing the height of each to by 30 metres from base to tip, up from 200m, originally.*
The project was first put to locals back in 2017, and Akuo said the changes to the project plan had been influenced by feedback from neighbours and community members, as well as other “crucial advisors.”
It said that the reduction of total turbine numbers allowed the project to be moved further away from neighbouring residences, as well as a nearby communications tower owned by Broadcast Australia.
“In designing the new layout, we voluntarily committed to avoid the sensitive eastern side of the site, closer to the South East Forests National Park altogether, and removed four turbines from that area,” Shane Quinnell, business developer for Akuo Energy Pacific told the Bega District News.
“There are fewer turbines to see and they have been moved away from houses, roads and the escarpment on the eastern section, at the Bega end of the project.
“Four turbines were removed in this area which is expected to dramatically diminish what could be seen in the Bega Valley Shire, compared to the previous layout.
“A reduction in the number of turbines also reduces the overall project infrastructure required. This in turn greatly reduces the potential disruption to birds and wildlife in the area.”
Quinnell said the company was able to reduce the number of turbines without reducing the proposed capacity of the wind farm by using the taller and more efficient wind turbines.
According to the company’s website, Akuo works with the world’s four largest wind generation equipment makers, and decides which to go with on a project-by-project basis, according to turbine performance and the local presence of the supplier.
”The increase in tip height of the turbines is expected to improve the visual amenity, noise emissions and environmental credentials of Granite Hills Wind Farm,” Quinnell told the paper.
He said the project, which had faced some minor delays due to Covid-19, was currently preparing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for review by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
The EIS was expected to be finalised near the end of 2020 and the submission made available for public feedback around mid-2021. If approved, project construction is currently estimated to begin in Q3 2021.
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*An ealier version of this article said the turbines at Granite Hills wind farm would be increased in height by 20 metres each. The height increase of each turbine will be 30 metres.