Gullen Range Wind Farm (GRWF) are mounting a fight back against orders that they move nine turbines to sites listed in the original approval.
Mr, John Titchen, Managing Director of GRWF has told the Gazette that
the sites in the original plan were “indicative,” and that the new sites created only minimal differences to the overall scheme.
The changes were fully justified and their possibility had been allowed for in the original Environmental Assessment placed before the Planning Department.
Two of the large site changes were made in one instance because the original location was found to be on swampy ground, and the other because to build there would have meant the clearance of trees in a forested area.
Two sites were listed as possible dangers to areas occupied by a Little Eagle and a Powerful Owl, but though a nest existed no actual sighting of a Little Eagle had occurred, and the Powerful Owl foraged in the forested area not impacted by the turbines.
“Visual experts approved by the Department don’t see the relocation's changing the impacts to anything but a negligible degree,” Mr. Titchen said.
He pointed out that the new sites were all within the confines of the approved area, which covered 25 kilometres from north to south.
GRWF is currently preparing a response to the Department’s demands which will be presented next week.
If there is no change to the Department’s attitude, the next step could be a return to the Land and Environment Court.
Supporting GRWF’s case will be a report from an independent private company, Environmental Resources Management Australia.
This declares: “The minor alterations in arrangement are barely discernible even when the two layouts are compared one above the other.
“In reality, once construction is completed there would be no discernible difference to any viewer.”
Mr. Titchen said the original environmental plan was prepared by Epuron, but at that time there was no details of the turbines to be used with regard to height, capacity and other factors.
He pointed out that the final Environmental Assessment presented by Epuron to the Department stated that although the turbine layout shown was “reasonably suitable for construction and would comply with expected consent conditions – minor relocation of specific turbines may be required prior to construction to take into account other factors.”
These factors included type of turbine chosen, wind speed and energy yield analysis, constraints identified through ongoing investigations, constraints on site suitability or construction cost minimisation, turbine suitability and final geotechnical investigations.
The final layout would be adjusted to ensure all criteria (including noise criteria) were achieved.
The report also declared: “Minor relocation of wind turbines is likely in accordance with the factors outlined.”
Further adjustments might be required to ensure locations met South Australian Noise Guidelines.
Elsewhere the Epuron report states: “The proposal requests some flexibility in the turbine layout.”
Mr. Titchen said moving the turbines would cost “thousands upon thousands” of dollars, with a giant crane having to be brought in and the new massive concrete bases constructed.
Questioned on Gullen Range Wind Farm’s attitude towards the commitment to a Community Enhancement Fund, Mr. Titchen said the company’s attitude had not changed.
Its commitment to residents within 10 kilometres of the turbines would be met as would additional agreements such as the TV transmission tower at Crookwell.
He pointed out too that the wind farm construction had meant more than $5 million spent on preparing roads in Upper Lachlan and Goulburn Mulwaree areas, and repairing of any subsequent damage.
As a result many of the roads had gained permanent improvement.