Farmers east of Ballarat say they had no warning the "most critical transmission network project in 30 years" could be built through their land.
In order to connect new electricity projects to the statewide grid, the Australian Electricity Market Operator decided a new 190 kilometre 500 volt powerline would be needed between Sydenham, in Melbourne's west, and Bulgana, north of Ararat.
A new terminal station will also be required near Ballarat.
Experts say this project is desperately needed to bring clean energy sources online faster, and allow them to generate at capacity.
AusNet Services, through its commercial arm Mondo, was appointed to plan and build the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project in late 2019, and announced on Wednesday it had begun community consultation with landowners about the potential route for the powerlines.
However, those landowners are not happy their family farms will likely be affected - they say towers averaging 85 metres tall and 10 metres wide, with 60 metre easements, will threaten their land and businesses.
Donna Simpson, from Springbank, said the first her family heard about the project was a letter last week.
CHECK OUT AN APPROXIMATE MAP OF THE AREA OF INTEREST BELOW
She said her family sat down with an AusNet representative this week, who had asked to perform initial investigative works on their land - they declined.
"These farms have been held for generations," she said.
"Why not put it under the ground, in the middle of the freeway where it won't hurt anyone, and feed the towns along the way?
"Country people are the ones putting up with the wind towers and powerlines."
She listed concerns about bushfires, cost overruns, foreign ownership, health effects for humans and animals, and the effect on agriculture in the area.
Another farmer opposed to the plan is Nathan Lidgett, who owns land in Greendale and Myrniong.
In a letter, he said he is a fifth-generation farmer in the area.
"I fully understand the need to transport renewable energy, and to move away from the state's reliance on brown coal energy production," he said.
"I fully support the construction and movement of renewable energy, but not at the cheapest financial construction cost parameter. The environmental, economical, agricultural, cultural and social impact on this proposed corridor requires immediate reassessment."
WHAT DO YOU THINK? LET US KNOW BELOW
He wrote he was worried the easements required for the powerlines would subdivide paddocks and make them unsaleable, while also removing tree stands for his beef and lamb herds.
Instead, the powerline should be built south of the Western Freeway.
"I strongly urge there is a reassessment of the proposed route/corridor as I believe this route/corridor has been established from an office desk with a ruler, map and the least possible ink required, without a full understanding of the agricultural, economic, cultural, historical, and social significance of this Myrniong - Greendale area," he wrote.
He added he had received letters for some of his land, but his neighbours had not, which he said raised questions about whether the route had been determined already.
AusNet Services denied this.
In a statement, a spokesperson said an area of interest for the project had been determined, but not the exact route.
"The area of interest is a broad area, there has not been any decision on the preferred transmission path," they said.
"We're just beginning the process of consulting with communities and landholders located in the area of interest for this project.
"We're currently investigating to understand existing constraints and opportunities, before a preferred transmission line corridor is identified.
"Community input is fundamental to this process. We will continue to engage with all community members and their representatives as we work to deliver clean and affordable power to all Victorians."
Health concerns regarding electromagnetic fields have been addressed by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (details attached below) and the Energy Network Australia - the AusNet Services spokesperson added the company "design, build and maintain our infrastructure in accordance with regulatory requirements and guidelines recommended by authorities".
AusNet Services' growth and future networks executive general manager, Chad Hymas, said in a statement hevbelieves community input will help to deliver a project that minimises impact to communities and the environment.
"Community input is fundamental. We warmly welcome anyone with an interest in the project to visit our website, where you can learn more about the project and have your say," he said.
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"This project is all about Victoria's energy future, unlocking renewable sources and bringing major economic investment to western Victoria and its local economy."
Community members have been invited to an information session, organised by the farmers, to share their concerns about the project and learn more, at the Myrniong Recreation Reserve on Saturday from 10am.
AusNet Services is also inviting feedback on the project via its website, which includes a map where people can point out areas of interest and concern, on westvictnp.com.au/get-involved
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