Keyneton locals have been informed a 42-turbine wind farm project will go ahead after a two-year construction extension approval was signed off late last year, but some concerned residents are unsure about what impact the new development could have on their communities.
This month residents were informed about the next stage of the Pacific Hydro development by Planning Minister Stephan Knoll and raised questions about the reason for the hold up in construction and whether the development could continue so long after its initial 2013 state approval.
Mr Knoll said he might not have the answers everybody wanted to hear but he wanted to respond to concerns to the best of his ability.
“I am sincerely sympathetic to the concerns of local residents but as the approvals had already been given, I am unable to overturn the decision,” he said.
The development’s preliminary planning began in 2009.
Keyneton residents Erwin and Leonie Thaller will be 2.4 kilometres away from the turbines on either side of their property.
Mr Thaller is a professional quarter horse trainer and breeder whose property will line the northern and southern clusters of wind turbines. He is concerned his business could suffer as a result.
“Infrasound is my main concern because it could destroy my business,” he said.
“The continuous low-frequency sound has the potential to change the horses’ mind set and, impact massively on breeding and their behaviour.
“I am worried about the impact it will have on us too because if it affects the horses it will have an effect on us.
“If we have to move because our business is destroyed, our property value will be decreased because no one will want to live next to two wind farms.”
Pacific Hydro spokesman Adam Chandler said while there were diverse opinions about the project, the developers were working to understand all perspectives.
“We will continue to engage with our project neighbours, the community and stakeholders,” he said.
“Since the project was first proposed we have sought to identify any potential impacts on the community, worked collaboratively to understand these concerns and to mitigate them.”
Mr Chandler said the extension request had been made because of the impact of energy policy uncertainty in Australia at the time, including several federal government reviews of the Renewable Energy Target between 2009-15.
“This uncertainty stalled significant progress on the project for approximately two years after it was approved,” he said.
Despite the Keyneton wind farm project being approved, the developer will still be required to satisfy a number of conditions before construction begins, according to a Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure spokesperson.
Focus on fairer go
The conditions include approval of the final design as well as some construction and operation management matters, such as noise testing.
Planning Minister Stephan Knoll has advised he will seek further information on some ancillary issues raised at the community meeting.
“We are working quickly as a government to make sure that future wind farm developments are dealt with in a fairer way,” he said.
But grazier Jim Rathjens, who has been involved in the proposed Tilt Renewables Palmer wind farm development for the past 10 years, believes projects like this help support the community and plans to host multiple turbines on his property.
“At 75 years old it will mean I can retire but most importantly it will help us,” he said. “After the livestock industry went through 15 years or more of very low prices, infrastructure and productivity took a fall for a long time.
“Agriculture is also struggling with global warming and I wanted to be a part of addressing this issue.
“Water supplies are also depleted so I view it as a way of drought-proofing for graziers because there will be an additional income in a bad season.
“As far as the wider community is concerned, the developers have pumped a lot of money into other host communities.”