UPC Renewables unveils new route for controversial Tasmania wind farm link | RenewEconomy

UPC Renewables unveils new route for controversial Tasmania wind farm link

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Revised plans unveiled for a 115km transmission line that would link two proposed wind farms with the grid in Tasmania’s north-west.

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Revised plans have been unveiled for a more than 100 kilometre transmission line that would link two new wind farms with a combined capacity of between 600-1000MW with the grid in Tasmania’s north-west.

UPC Renewables, which is behind the two proposed wind farms at Tasmania’s Robbins Island and Jim’s Plain, released the preliminary route for a 115km transmission line late last week, opening it for community feedback a second time.

The two wind farms – themselves controversial for their size and location, and for the high profile opposition they have attracted, including from Greens founder Bob Brown – would need the new power link, due to the existing line from Smithton to Burnie already being “overcommitted.”

Original draft plans to install a 170km transmission line from Sheffield to Robbins Islands did not go down well with the community when released in June this year.

As we reported at the time, landowners from around 17 private properties were said to have received letters from UPC saying compulsory land acquisition of part of their property could be on the cards if an agreement could not be reached.

UPC chief operating officer David Pollington said last week that the current design – involving 50 metre power poles placed about 400 metres apart – would wind its way from Robbins Island past Jim’s Plain and though to Hampshire (south of Burnie).

The company says the new pathway had been charted as much as possible to avoid areas of high environmental and heritage significance; minimise the impact on private landowners by preferencing crown land and commercial land wherever possible; and minimise the impact on visual amenity.

To this end, it would take in about 11.5km of private land, 6km of corporate dairies, 8.5km of crown land, and 90 kilometres of corporate forest, UPC said. A 60 metre easement would follow the lines, restricting vegetation, permanent structures and machinery of a certain height from passing underneath.

“One of the things that we did … was look to get minimal impact to private landowners, minimising impact to agriculture and to steer away from environmentally sensitive areas,” Pollington told The Burnie Advocate.

But, he added, there was “a lot of work to go.”

“We have consulted with all the directly impacted landowners along the way and got to a position that they are in principal happy with,” he said.

“The preliminary route plus the owners’ in principle agreement will allows us to access the land and determine if it’s okay to go there.”

Construction of the new line is also expected to be tied in with grid upgrades planned by TasNetworks for between Burnie, Hampshire, Sheffield and Palmerston.

The Nietta Action Group – a community group that formed in May this year in opposition to UPC’s original transmission line plans – noted the release of the new proposal on its Facebook page.

The post said UPC had “learnt from the disastrous release of the first proposed route” and done its homework this time around, but called on members to ask questions, demand changes and insist on the adoption of mitigation measures.

The group’s post also suggested that UPC’s promise of compensation for loss of land associated with the transmission line’s footprint was not broad enough.

“What about the other losses which landholders (directly impacted and adjoining), other businesses and the entire community stand to bear, such as impacts on investment security, livelihoods, sense of place and wellbeing? What about the environmental impacts? How will those be mitigated, compensated and off-set?,” it asked.

A comment on the post has also pointed out that – according to an interactive map put together by UPC – the UPC part of the transmission line appears to end at Hampshire.

“They state it will then connect to the planned ‘North West Transmission Network’, which will be built by TasNetworks, and will connect Hampshire to Staverton.

“So the TasNetworks portion of the line is the critical part (as far as Wilmot and surrounds is concerned). I could not find any information on what route the Hampshire to Staverton line will follow,” the comment said.

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  1. Andrew Roydhouse 6 months ago

    As this is a commercial profit seeking project – why aren’t they required to BURY the transmission lines instead?

    No risk of strong winds bringing down lines and starting fires, no need for a 60m wide dead zone beneath, no annual cost (to be cut like PGE in California did) in maintaining the vegetation free 115km x 60m wide strip as well as the adverse impact on trees along the edges of the strip.

    Would make it more costly – but why should Tasmanian farmers, foresters and the broader community subsidise a company only looking to maximise their profits at the community’s expense?

    Sure hope they don’t make many political donations otherwise…..

  2. Ben 6 months ago

    I’m one of those directly affected by the strange commercial arrangement between State-owned TasNetworks – who are legislatively required to accommodate any energy companies who want to set up shop – and foreign-owned UPC.

    Contrary to inference in this article, the original proposed UPC transmission line has NOT been significantly altered – and it’s incorrect to say anyone has ‘learned’ anything other than us locals learning exactly how we’re being steamrollered by the combine might of the State-corporate sector.

    The truth is that when UPC encountered local objections to the broadscale industrialisation of our lands, and being threatened by forced acquisitions, they made a token deviation in their transmission line – taking it from one sensitive area and dumping it right next door in an equally sensitive area.

    At which point UPC effectively went underground and suddenly TasNetworks stepped in, like a corporate fairy godmother, to build and pay for the last half of the line and take on ‘negotiations’ for UPC.

    That’s right – a state organisation is using taxpayer dollars to finish the line for UPC. UPC will, crucially however, keep control of the transmission corridor from the proposed North West Renewable Energy Zone – giving a private company, owned by foreign billionaires, and controlled by UPC’s boss in Hong Kong, control over any competitors to UPC in accessing the transmission lines. Call that a level playing field?

    And the route hasn’t changed significantly at all – it still impacts massively on islanding the unprotected Loongana Range, isolating it and its wildlife from surrounding natural reserves in the Leven Canyon, Black Bluff (our local ‘Cradle Mountain’), introducing another highway for weeds and feral animals, and killing unknown numbers of our few remaining wedgetail eagles and other raptors, birds and bats, and adversely affecting bees and other insects’ movements through the Valley.

    We’re already been devastated by excessive forestry. Running the UPC-TasNet transmission line through existing coups, and pretending it won’t impact ecosystems to either side – not to mention the small tourist operators who work here – is a lie. The 60 metre easements now look like they might be 90 metres – the width of a soccer field. Who knows? UPC-TasNet isn’t telling anyone anything useful until every last contract or threat of forced acquisition is stitched up. So much for ‘community consultation’.

    In meetings, TasNet told us they sought ‘the least contentious’ route. We told them we wanted them to find the best route – but they refused to even consider the existing Vale of Belvoir route let alone the best route, submarine cabling along the coast. The real object, as we slowly learned, was to run the cheapest line to ensure UPC are hooked into the grid supplying the Mainland, and put the costs on our backs instead. It’s rumoured they’ll also use the double easement to hook up the West Coast through here too. All so the soon-to-be-oversupplied Mainland can buy private company power to keep the costs of air-conditioning down to a dull roar.

    TasNetworks have followed UPC in being secretive, and putting up an expensive sham of ‘community consultation’. We had a mole in the Devonport Energy Development Conference this year, who was able to report that energy insiders made it clear that community consultation ‘shouldn’t impact timelines or goals’. Companies should also sponsor local art prizes, sports teams and give talks in schools. Meanwhile, Liberal and Labor politicians, Murdoch media and shock jocks have been schmoozed and are in sync with the ‘jobs and growth’ rhetoric based on zero economic modelling or AEMO / multi-sector planning.

    Here in Tassie there are some good renewables projects. Some, like UPC’s Robbin’s Island windfarm, should never be given any kind of green light, let alone massive taxpayer support that, in the end destroys valleys like ours, kills wildlife, trashes world heritage wetlands and property values, and ignores the environment – all so UPC can achieve the quickest return for its billionaire investors.

    It’s good that RenewEconomy are finally noting there are people down here with legitimate issues with the energy mess down here. I hope RE get in contact with us to get a deeper understanding of it – as pro-renewables people, all we want is for State and private sector to do coordinated multi-sector planning that doesn’t impose the savings of a cheap and nasty system on taxpayers so parasitic investors can profit.

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