Plans to develop a 33 turbine, up to 200MW wind farm overlooking the site of the former Hazelwood coal-fired power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley have been put on public exhibition, as part of the project’s planning approval process.
OSMI Australia said on the weekend that formal notices about the Delburn wind farm, proposed for development in Victoria’s Strzelecki Ranges, had been posted to all landowners and residents within 5km of the project, which spans three different local government areas.
Residents of Latrobe City, South Gippsland Shire and Baw Baw Shire had from between Monday July 19 to Wednesday August 18 to make a submission on the project and would then also be given the option to be heard at a public panel hearing later in the year, OSMI said.
OSMI submitted a development application for the project to Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in December of 2020, putting forward what the developers described at the time as a “significantly reduced” environmental impact from its original design of 53 turbines and 300MW of capacity.
The wind farm, which is proposed for the state’s coal centre, the Latrobe Valley, will be sited in pine forest plantation land overlooking the now partially demolished Hazelwood coal-fired power station – once Australia’s dirtiest fossil fuel power plant.
Whether or not the local communities are on board with the project will become clearer over the course of the public exhibition period.
In its early planning stages, a 160 metre-tall meteorological mast installed at the site to measure wind conditions was vandalised, causing it to collapse – an incident that was investigated by the police.
According to WIN News reports at the time, the erection of the met-mast at the project – stretching the approximate height of the proposed turbine nacelles – had stirred up local opposition to the project, as a symbol of what was to come.
A group called the Strzelecki Community Alliance has previously argued the project’s wind turbines were “too close to homes, too close to communities” and in a bushfire-prone area of the recently hard-hit Gippsland region.
In its statement on Sunday, OSMI said it encouraged those people who wished to make a submission on the proposed wind farm to do so at the DELWP site, where they would also be able view project information.
“Anyone who makes a submission on the proposal will be asked if they wish to be heard at the public panel hearing that is scheduled for two weeks commencing on 18 October 2021. Further details in relation to this process will be published closer to the date,” the developer said.
“For people who would like to understand how the wind farm would look in the landscape, OSMI will have Virtual Reality headsets in their Mirboo North Office at 52 Ridgway during the exhibition period.”
The current proposed design of the Delburn wind farm would have 33 wind turbines with a maximum height of 250 metres above foundation level (to the blade tip) and a maximum rotor diameter of 180 metres,
The project would also comprise three permanent anemometers (or wind monitoring masts) and one ‘development’ anemometer, an operations and maintenance building and a battery energy storage system facility.
It would also install roughly 120km of underground 33 kV electrical reticulation and fibre optic cabling connecting the wind turbines to the substation. A total of 12.3 hectares of native vegetation would be cleared for the project.
OSMI said a separate planning permit application had been prepared for the proposed terminal station within the Latrobe City LGA, which was required to connect the wind farm into the existing Hazelwood to Rowville 220kV transmission line.
In January of this year, Cubico, one of the world’s leading renewable energy infrastructure companies, signed on as the joint development partner for the Delburn wind farm, committing to purchase 100% of the project prior to the beginning of construction.
“We are excited to be investing in this innovative project in the Latrobe Valley – Victoria’s energy generation heartland – and are committed to delivering a high-quality project that will support the economic transition of the region, as well as contributing to Victoria’s renewable energy targets,” said David Smith, Cubico’s Head of Australia, at the time.
“Cubico is committed to working closely with the community surrounding the project and will honour all commitments made by OSMI, such as maximising local procurement opportunities and the delivery of a best practice Community Benefits Scheme.”
Environment group Friends of the Earth said in a statement on Monday that the various adjustments to the wind farm’s design, made in response to community feedback since 2019, was a promising sign of best practise renewable energy development.
FoE also believes that OSMI Australia’s proposed wind farm offers a key opportunity for the Latrobe Valley community to continue its shift away from coal and to shape its renewable energy future.
“The Delburn Wind farm is another piece of the puzzle in the Latrobe Valley’s energy transition, offering a new source of jobs and a reliable source of energy generation for Victoria as the state acts on climate change,” said Wendy Farmer, Yes2Renewables Gippsland Campaigner at Friends of the Earth.
Local Gippsland advocates, the Strzelecki Sustainable Futures (SSF) group, also welcomed news of the project’s progress, which they said promised to deliver multiple benefits.
“The project includes options for community co-investment meaning that local community members can invest in and receive financial benefits from the project, with over $1 million pledged by local community members,” said SSF representative Catheryn Thompson.
“At a time when Gippsland is experiencing the impacts of climate change such as severe storms and floods, the Delburn wind farm is a part of the solution.”
Friends of the Earth also noted that it had visited the proposed site in early 2021 to inspect known koala habitat trees and was working to help ensure the project’s environmental footprint was kept to an absolute minimum.