The size of Australia’s biggest proposed wind farm has been scaled back by about 20 per cent, in a decision the Andrews Government says will help to protect the increasingly besieged native brolga.
The proposed Golden Plains farm near Rokewood, which would add up to 1000 megawatts of energy to the grid through 228 turbines was touted as the biggest in the southern hemisphere.
Mr Wynne has ruled that WestWind Energy, the German-backed company behind the project, should cut as many as 47 turbines from the original proposal to build 228 turbines across 167 square kilometres of farmland.
Brolgas are threatened every way they turn in Victoria, an environmental effects statement about the proposed Golden Plains wind farm found.
The changing climate is shrinking the bird’s nesting grounds, while a key response to climate change – building more wind farms – is also claiming some of what’s left of their habitat.
“Brolgas in Victoria are therefore threatened both by climate change and by one of the key technologies at our disposal to attempt to combat and mitigate climate change,” Planning Minister Richard Wynne wrote in justifying his decision to approve the wind farm, but also cut its vast footprint down to size.
The decision also means that the Golden Plains wind farm at Rokewood will probably generate less renewable energy than first proposed.
“I acknowledge the potential significant loss in renewable energy generation capacity associated with the loss of 47 turbines,” Mr Wynne wrote.
The Andrews government’s decision to approve the company's proposal to build the wind farm near Rokewood follows an environmental assessment by an independent panel earlier this year.
If it launches within the next four years as proposed, the Golden Plains wind farm will still be the largest in the southern hemisphere, capable of powering an estimated 400,000 homes.
The largest wind farm currently operating in Australia is at Macarthur, also in western Victoria. It has 140 turbines with a 420 MW capacity, enough to power about 180,000 homes a year.
Mr Wynne said the project would benefit the economy and the environment.
"This project will create hundreds of local jobs, reduce greenhouse emissions and generate enough electricity to power more than 400,000 homes, boosting supply and putting downward pressure on power prices," he said.
Labor promised during the election campaign to increase Victoria's renewable energy target from 40 per cent by 2025 to 50 per cent by 2030.
The government said that once complete, the $1.5 billion project would span up to 17,000 hectares and prevent more than 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere each year.
It would generate nearly 3000 gigawatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power more than 400,000 homes.
The project has not yet gained all the approvals it needs. It must receive environmental approval from the Commonwealth and a planning permit before construction can begin.
WestWind Energy said the wind farm remained a commercially robust project, with good investment interest, despite the Andrews government's ruling to reduce its size.
The company said rather than cut 47 turbines from the project, it would seek to fit more within the smaller project area defined by the government.
“The EES approval allows WestWind Energy to construct up to 228 turbines,” chief operating officer Marla Brauer said.
“The opportunity to optimise the wind farm design within the suggested buffer guidelines will allow for a number of the proposed 47 turbines identified for removal to be constructed.”
The push to make Ballarat the capital of a renewable energy district however, continues in other projects
The mammoth Stockyard Hill Wind Farm south of Beaufort is set to be producing power for up to 400,000 Victorian homes by the end of 2020
Works on the 107-turbine Moorabool Wind Farm, also being built by Goldwind and construction of the 64-turbine Lal Lal Wind Farm are underway this year.