A planning application for a 350MW wind farm in the NSW Southern Tablelands has been rejected by the state’s Department of Planning and Environment, after it was ruled the project’s developers had failed to adequately assess the visual and noise impacts of the turbines, or to properly consult with local residents.
The 100-turbine Jupiter Wind Farm, proposed for development 5km south-east of Tarago by Australian-Spanish joint venture EPYC, was to be sited on a 12,000 hectare stretch of agricultural land, hosted by 25 different landholders.
But the proposal met with resistance from neighbouring farmers and residents, some of who formed a group – Residents Against Jupiter Wind Turbines – and led public protests against its development.
In particular, residents have been concerned about the size of the turbines, which were to be 110 metres high, with 63-metre-wide rotor blades.
The group has had political support from NSW deputy health minister – and former planning minister – Pru Goward, who has been active in the anti-wind movement in the NSW-ACT region.
Just this month, Goward attended a community meeting in Yass, to address concerns about wind developments in the Hume electorate – and in particular, Trustpower’s proposed 109 turbine ind farm in nearby Rye Park.
“Increasingly, I am on the view that there is some validity on the health effects,” she told the meeting. “There are a number of people with health problems … it is clearly not psychosomatic.
“They impact upon the landscape and have an immediate effect upon land value… I am with this community and plan on putting pressure on the state government.”
In her former role as NSW planning minister, Goward acted to force Chinese project developer Goldwind to move 9 turbines at its Gullen Range wind farm near Crookwell.
Opponents of the proposed Jupiter wind farm near have criticised the procedure around community consultative committees (CCCs), which are mandatory under state wind development guidelines, but which they have described as nothing more than a “fig leaf”.
In June 2014, EPYC called for community consultation on the development, but by August, it seemed that the process had broken down.
“We made it clear that we expect wind farm companies to genuinely consult with communities and the history is that they haven’t,” Goward told the Golburn Post at the time.
“We need to be sure CCCs are genuine, that they genuinely represent the community and can give unfettered advice.”
On Thursday, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment released a statement saying it had not accepted the application for the wind farm, and had advised EPYC that its Environmental Impact Statement was not suitable for public exhibition.
The Department said it had reviewed the EIS and found that it had not adequately assessed the visual and noise impacts of the project, as required by government guidelines; not undertaken sufficient consultation with local residents about measures to reduce impacts of the wind farm, particularly in regard to visual impacts; and not fully considered the compatibility of the project with local planning controls and the emerging rural-residential nature of the area.
A spokesperson for the Department said that information presented to the community regarding impacts of state significant developments like wind farms needed to be of the highest quality.
“The community has a legitimate interest in major development in their area. That is why the company was required to consult with the community, especially its nearest neighbours, about the impacts of its proposal,” the spokesperson said.
“The Department has informed the company that it has not met its requirements and that more work needs to be done on these issues before any application could go on public exhibition.”
The Canberra Times reports that it contacted EPYC project manager Ibrahim Eid on Thursday, but that he was travelling, and could not yet comment.
Three other wind farms and a solar farm are operating or are approved in the area.