Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Bungendore wind generator ponders adding turbines

Canberra Times
Thursday 19/11/2009 Page: 4

The owners of the $400 million Capital Wind Farm near Bungendore may add more turbines to the landscape as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared yesterday the project "an extraordinary new addition to Australia's renewable energy technology". In the midst of the emissions trading debate, Mr Rudd scored a handy photo opportunity, alongside Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, as he officially opened the windfarm. Its 67 turbines are anticipated to generate enough renewable energy to power the equivalent of 60,000 homes, and it is claimed they-will save about 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas a year.

Mr Rudd acknowledged there would always be some concerns about projects such as wind farms, with "the need to preserve, at maximum, local environmental amenity, but at the same time we've got to rise to the challenge of, 'How do we deal with the renewable energy future?' "We've got to get the balance right, and I believe the project proponents here have got the balance right," he said.

The Capital Wind Farm is being run by Infigen Energy, which also operates wind farms in the United States, Germany and France. The Bungendore turbines started turning progressively from July, with the windfarm fully commissioned by early last month. Infigen Energy managing director Miles George said the company had received nine complaints about the noise. Mr George said eight of the residents lived more than 2km away and the ninth lived about 1.5km away.

Mr George said the company was testing the noise levels. "Certainly we have very stringent rules we have to abide by," he said. The windfarm is spread across more than 35sqkm, the company leasing local properties. Mr George said it could get bigger. "It is a possibility we could add further turbines here. We haven't sought approval for that yet, but at some stage it's certainly possible we could add to this windfarm," he said.

The NSW Government approved the Capital Wind Farm two years ago with 80 conditions of consent. NSW Premier Nathan Rees, also at yesterday's launch, declared the view of the turbines across Lake George "terrific". He said the windfarm was "one of the most significant renewable energy developments in NSW since the Snowy scheme". The Capital Wind Farm employed 120 people during construction. Ten jobs remain for continuing maintenance.

Palerang Mayor Walter Raynolds said he estimated the windfarm would generate at least $1.5 million a year for the regional economy, including the rent paid to land owners. However, the council had to carry the cost of monitoring the conditions attached to the development approval, which he believed was unreasonable. "We want the windfarm and we think it's a wonderful thing - we just feel that issue was not properly considered in the approvals process," Mr Raynolds said.

Among the properties being leased for the windfarm are three historic holdings owned by the Osborne family, including 82-year-old twins Michael and Pat and younger brother Brian, 77. "The only thing I don't like about the whole thing is that I'm so fascinated by the windmills I can't stop looking at them," Michael said.