Thursday, 11 July 2013

Welcome to Victoria, no wind farms allowed
30 May 2013

Welcome to my home state of Victoria, Australia's hub of art and culture, lane-way cafes and wonderful coffee, Aussie Rules football, the miraculous Leadbeater's possum, and magnificent forests. And also, after law changes in 2011, one of the most difficult places in the world to build a wind farm.

Back in 2011, the then-premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu, enacted laws that, according to The Conversation website, effectively imposes a blanket ban on wind farms in many parts of the state:

  • They effectively give the owners of any dwelling within 2km of a proposed wind farm the power to decide whether or not the development should proceed.

The laws were part of the conservative Liberal-National coalition's 2010 election platform to "restore fairness and certainty to the planning process for wind farms". The laws have definitely provided certainty.

A recent report commissioned by the opposition planning spokesperson Brian Tee, demonstrates the kind of certainty that banning wind farms can bring:

  • While the Baillieu Government's reforms were targeted at new wind farms, they have had a major impact on those who already had permission to develop wind farms, prohibiting the extension of permits and making it harder for developers to make small changes to their planning approvals to incorporate state of the art technology and improve efficiency.

If a wind farm company wants to amend their permit or get an extension, they have to apply under the new constraints. The impact of the laws has been to not only stop the development of new wind farms but to also hinder the development of farms already approved.

Andrew Bray, state coordinator of non-profit pro-wind farm community group VicWind noted that many developments that were approved under the earlier laws now would have no chance under the new regime. "Technology has moved on substantially since granting of permits 3-5 years ago", said Bray, "so developers want to alter key aspects such as number of turbines, often using higher capacity turbines to decrease the total number of turbines, turbine placement, or blade tip height to improve viability of the project".

The chilling effect of these planning laws is plain. Only one application to build a new wind farm has been made since the new laws came into effect.

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