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Wind Farm Gets Green Light Despite Majority Public Opposition

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The Latrobe Valley in Gippsland, Victoria has hosted several coal mines and coal driven power plants for decades but talks about the possibility of a wind farm being built at Delburn which would purportedly compliment the large number of solar panels that have been erected atop buildings all around the region have been circulating for some time.

In 2019, The Guardian published an article outlining the plan to generate enough wind power for 200,000 homes and suggesting it would be a clean energy future for the Latrobe Valley.

This map was included in The Guardian’s article showing where the proposed wind farm would be located.

The article suggested that the wind farm would intend to utilise hybrid concrete and steel towers up to 160 metres tall, supporting the 5.6 megawatt turbines which at the time were expected to be on the market in early 2020s.

The Latrobe Valley is the centre of transmission and distribution infrastructure and has been for years.

The proposed wind project will be the first in the Latrobe Valley and has been described as ‘of state significance’. It will overlook the old Hazelwood coal burning power plant (now decommissioned and demolished) and allegedly it will power around 135,000 homes with renewable energy.

However, not everyone in the surrounding communities is happy about the industrial scale proposal, too close to homes, too close to communities and located in a bushfire-prone area.

62 submitters requested to speak to the panel selected by Minister Richard Wynne during a hearing that was held on 13th September 2021. The Strzelecki Community Alliance Inc (SCA) put out a ‘what can I do right now’ website directing people to Join SCA, write to Richard Wynne to outline their reasons for objecting, write to local media, print a sign, and display it at their property entrance and let their neighbours know about the proposed wind farm. Their website also had several other resources.

In August 2020, the proposed site for the wind farm was vandalised, prompting a police investigation after the meteorological mast, a tall approximately 160 metre-tall mesh-metal tower was made to collapse in an ‘uncontrolled manner’

In a statement issued via the wind farm developer’s (OSMI) Facebook page, the company requested members of the community to get in touch with any concerns or objections they may have to the project.

The SCA outlined on a webpage, the reasons why the location for the proposed Delburn wind farm was ‘inappropriate’, citing that the turbines would be “as tall as the Rialto and wider than the playing field of the MCG” and “turbine height can be increased by 20% on approved plans without resubmission”, and “Noise carries further with greater hub heights and when turbines are located on ridges overlooking valleys”… other reasons in their long list included, but were not limited to, the level of turbulence, the noise pollution, the fact that according to the National Wind Farm Commissioner, the best locations are on flat to moderately undulating land well away from neighbours, the number of houses impacted by the proposal should it go ahead, the setback distances between the turbines and the dwellings etc.

Angela Noone sent a letter to the editor of The Boolarra Link on 24th August 2020 stating that she had “seen the proposal divide a town, though not evenly”. Her letter states, “The vast majority of people do not want this wind farm. We didn’t ask for it to be built here and when a poll was conducted late last year 76% of people in Boolarra who voted overwhelming made it clear we did not want this wind farm in our beautiful town.

With all the opposition to the proposal, it has not stopped it. In fact, in Tuesday’s edition of the Latrobe Valley Express, the cover article titled “GREEN LIGHT” in large, black, bold type in all capital letters outlines that the planned project has indeed been given the go ahead.

The article, written by Michelle Slater states that the approval has been given for the wind farm to be built on HVP-owned plantation land and will ‘span parts of the Coalville, Thorpdale, Darlimurla, Boolarra and Yinnar areas.’

The plans are for OSMI to build 33 wind turbines at a height of 250 metres that will power approximately 135,000 homes (not the 200,000 that were suggested in earlier reports).

Prior to the approval going ahead, there was a 12 day public planning panel hearing which OSMI technical specialists, government departments and community members were present at.

Also proposed recently has been plans for an associated battery energy storage system that was not approved due to the potential fire risks associated with it.

Cubico Sustainable Investments, project partners thanked the community for their contribution to the project. David Smith, Cubico Australia’s head is reported to have said the company had a strong desire to build positive relationships with surrounding communities.

This seems like a bit of a slap in the face to those communities, considering the majority of them do not want this!

The SCA is seeking legal action over the approval according to SCA spokesperson Gabrielle Armstrong. This has all come after operators of the Bald Hills Wind Farm were ordered to pay damages to two local residents impacted by noise emissions at night.

Ms Armstrong stated that the group (SCA) still needs to process the content of the report, but she believes it is a “prohibited action” and that the decision should not have been made on the issue by the panel.

Russell Northe, Member for Morwell, stated that he hopes community concerns would be considered by the proponents and the state government as the project begins development. He said that “the consensus and feedback I have received in the main from local residents is that wind farms of this magnitude should be constructed in off-shore settings and not on-shore where impacts to homeowners and communities can be affected.”

Danny O’Brien, Member for Gippsland South, said, “It seems incredible to me that just days after a significant Supreme Court decision in the Bald Hills wind farm case that the Minister could sign off on the proposed Delburn project.”

The chosen site in a plantation environment is bushfire-prone, is populated by approximately 1267 homes within 5km of the nearest turbine and the massive scale at 250 metres tall to blade tip, contrasting with the light towers at the MCG which are around 80 metres high.

Strzelecki Sustainable Futures (SSF) spokesperson Catheryn Thompson said, “With infrastructure from the old Hazelwood Power Station utilised, less physical impacts will be felt by this community.”

The SSF actually supported the project in spite of the vast opposition to it.

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