Monday, 1 July 2013

Blade runners: 56-metre trucks make special deliveries to wind farms
11 May 2013

Emerging from fog amid an array of flashing lights, trucks more than 50 metres in length carry the beginnings of a new wind farm beneath the nose of the now-not-so-big Merino in Goulburn.

Under police escort they ease around and over the wide roundabout, and make their way slowly into town, with a handful of residents venturing into the cool dawn to watch them manoeuvre around modified corners on their way to the under-construction Gullen Range wind farm near Bannister.

As one project grows, 14 more proposals for wind farms in NSW can be assessed in the next months under the controversial Part 3A planning laws, which have since been phased out by the state government. Delivery of the components for the 73 turbine Gullen Range wind farm began on Monday, and will continue for 28 weeks, Goldwind Science & Technology Co Australia says.

The longest trucks trundling through Goulburn are just under 56 metres, more than double the length of an average B-double truck. They are travelling on regional roads that have been extensively upgraded by Goldwind Science & Technology Co. More than $3.3 million has gone on work on Kialla and Gurrundah roads and the widening and improving of intersections in Goulburn and Crookwell. According to the project's website, the farm is due to be connected to the grid early next year, and is expected to produce nearly 160 MW of renewable power at full capacity.

Seven more projects in the region are eligible to be assessed under the Part 3A legislation, including Yass Valley wind farm and Collector wind farm, as the NSW government phases out the law which previously granted the Planning Minister consent authority for major projects. The seven projects would house up to 650 turbines on wind farms from Collector to Boorowa to just north of Crookwell.

Under the transitional Part 3A period, applications already under way have until June 30 to lodge documents with the NSW Planning Department, which can then refer the projects on to the independent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC). wind farm opponents Yass Landscape Guardians claimed the sped-up Part 3A process had "curtailed" community consultation by energy company Epuron over the Yass Valley Wind Farm.

Guardians chairman Mark Glover said the organisation conducted its own telephone survey of residents and landowners within eight km of the proposed Yass Valley farm. It found 70% of the 112 respondents did not support the development, and that Epuron had not contacted most of them. "The survey clearly shows that the majority do not want these turbines in the community for a variety of reasons", he said.

Epuron project manager Andrew Wilson said the company's involvement was interrupted when the project was sold to Origin Energy and then re-acquired it last year, but denied it had neglected consultation with the community. "We've got a significant consultation that's been under way", he said. "Consultation is an ongoing thing".

Mr Wilson said Epuron would not respond to the Yass Landscape Guardians' survey results as it was not an independently conducted survey. He said other surveys, by Epuron and by the NSW government, had shown broad support for wind farms in the area. "We're obviously aware of opponents, and in the last six months there have been significantly more vocal opponents to the wind farm but equally there has been strong support, and that hasn't changed in my view over the years".

Mr Wilson said the company was lodging its final planning documents, and intended to have the project continue under the Part 3A assessment process. In Collector, RATCH Australia is expecting a decision shortly on its proposed 63 turbine wind farm between the Federal and Hume highways. Opponents of the Collector wind farm used the town's Pumpkin Festival earlier this month to protest against the project.

A feature of their protest were anti-wind farm T-shirts. RATCH Australia's Anthony Yeates said the proposal had been lodged with NSW Planning under Part 3A, and the company was confident a decision would be made soon. '' We understand that our project complies with all the requirements of the draft NSW Wind Farm guidelines", he said.