Industry blindsided by wind farm planning restrictions

Wind farm turbines at sunset with long grass in foreground (origin walcha)
Image: Shutterstock

Planning restrictions imposed on the construction of the Willatook Wind Farm risk setting a disastrous precedent for future renewable energy development in Victoria that would jeopardise the state’s renewable energy and climate goals, according to the Clean Energy Council.

On Friday, Victorian Planning Minister Sonya Kilkenny released her assessment of the project, following the preparation of an environmental effects statement and completion of a planning inquiry.

Related article: GenCost: Wind, solar still lowest cost new build generation

Her recommendations included widened turbine-free buffer zones for endangered brolga and bats, which would reduce the number of turbines and the farm’s energy output, along with a five-month moratorium on construction throughout the brolga breeding season.

Clean Energy Council director of energy generation and storage Dr Nicholas Aberle said the decision reveals the urgency of reform to address broader challenges affecting the confidence of investors and industry in responsibly developing new projects critical to climate action and the energy transition.

“The decision relies on draft brolga standards which have not been finalised or approved by government, and European standards developed for European bats.

“The arbitrary requirement for a five-month window in which construction is not allowed to proceed has been imposed without being evaluated through an already time-intensive Environmental Effects Statement process. This is not supported by evidence and is simply not workable in practice for any wind farm.”

Dr Aberle said unpredictability from planning processes created unnecessary risk for investors, which would affect decisions to support future project development, particularly where other jurisdictions are taking supportive action to expedite approvals processes.

Related article: Clean energy investment pipeline battles headwinds

“Industry are conscious of the importance of minimising the environmental impacts of clean energy projects, but without reform to approvals processes for these projects, we cannot effectively address the climate crisis that is threatening every single species and ecosystem on the planet.

“The Clean Energy Council are in ongoing discussions with the Victorian Government to discuss how these challenges can be solved, so that this unfortunate outcome does not occur again, with little or no forewarning.”

Previous articleEnel deploys robots to ‘dry clean’ solar PV systems
Next articleExperts say Australia won’t meet net zero targets