The Department of Planning and Environment has finalised its assessment of Newtricity’s proposed Biala Wind Farm, which is located about 15 kilometres southwest of Crookwell.
The Department found that the project could be approved, subject to strict conditions, and the application has now been referred to the independent Planning Assessment Commission (the Commission) for a final decision.
The proposed wind farm involves the construction and operation of 31 wind turbines with a maximum height of 185 metres, and a range of ancillary infrastructure. The transmission line to connect the project to the electricity grid would be considered under a separate proposal.
Mike Young, Director of Resource Assessments, said Newtricity's proposed wind farm strikes a reasonable balance between contributing to Australia's renewable energy targets while minimising the potential impacts on surrounding residents and the environment.
“The project would create over 70 jobs during construction, and inject $192 million of capital investment into the economy. Newtricity would also contribute at least $75,000 a year to the Upper Lachlan Shire Council to fund community improvement projects in the local area,” Mr Young said.
"Despite its benefits, we understand the community's concerns around impacts on the local area, particularly around the cumulative impacts of wind farms in the Southern Tablelands," Mr Young said.
"In our assessment, we considered feedback raised from the community and government agencies, including cumulative visual and noise impacts. We have recommended a number of conditions to ensure the impacts on the community and the environment are minimised and managed."
The recommended conditions include:
- measures to reduce the visual impacts of the project, including vegetation screens and landscaping
- complying with strict noise limits set by the Environment Protection Authority
- implementing a number of plans to manage impacts on traffic, heritage and biodiversity
- upgrading and maintaining local roads
- strict obligations for decommissioning turbines and rehabilitating the land
The Department has also recommended that the project should not be allowed to proceed until Newtricity has secured an approval for a transmission line to connect the wind farm to the electricity grid.
“There are a number of viable options for connecting to the grid, but the Department wants to ensure that the site is not disturbed until the transmission line is approved," Mr Young said.
The Department publicly exhibited the proposal between August and October 2015 and received 50 submissions, including 11 from government agencies and 39 public submissions objecting to the project. Only four submissions were from community groups or residents living in the local area.
The PAC will now consider the Department’s report and recommended conditions as well as community submissions in making its final decision on the merits of the project.