A 180MW wind farm proposed for Queensland’s far north has been approved by the federal government, in the latest sign that the anti-wind stance that once dominated Coalition renewables policy could be a thing of the past.
The approval of the Mount Emerald Wind Farm, announced on Wednesday by environment minister Greg Hunt, also marks another significant milestone for the $380 million project near Cairns, in a state which has installed only 12MW of wind energy generation to date.
The 63 turbine project – a joint venture between Ratch and proprerty developers Port Bajool – won state approval in April following years of detailed research including 8,000 man-hours of on-site surveying in far north Queensland’s Tablelands.
The proposed project came up against significant local opposition, and in June 2014, then Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney called in its development application, taking responsibility for approval away from the Mareeba Shire Council.
The Cairns Post reports that the federal level approval was confirmed on Thursday by Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch, subject to 35 “strict” conditions – although these were not detailed.
“This is a major milestone for the project and provides greater certainty that the project will be built,” said Ratch project director Terry Johannesen.
“It also shows that a large scale wind farm can be built without major disturbances to the local environment,” he said.
Johannesen said the project would generate enough electricity to power 75,000 homes each year, as well as around $150 million of direct investment in Queensland and up to 150 jobs.
“A long list of local services will be required to construct the wind farm including electrical contractors, fencing contractors, concreters, welders, electricians, plant and equipment operators, transport contractors and administrators,” he said.
“Mt Emerald will encourage a positive investment environment for future projects that will help grow a local renewable generation network to include various forms of solar, hydro and biofuels,” Morris said.
“Our vision to deliver this project and a cleaner energy future for Queensland is very much aligned with the state government which is vigorously pursuing plans to generate 50 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable energy by 2030,” he said.