Giant wind farm generates heat
By Rod Myer, Melissa Marino
March 17, 2005
Australia's largest wind farm - a massive 204-tower complex in Victoria's Western District - will be built if an application by operator Southern Hydro is successful.
But plans for the wind farm between the towns of Macarthur and Hawkesdale have angered some of locals, who have dubbed it a "wind factory".
Southern Hydro will apply next month to build the wind farm, which would produce 337 megawatts of power and cost $650 million.
If approved, the wind generators would spread across three farms and 5500 hectares of undulating grazing land.
Tom Robertson, whose property would be home to up to 75 per cent of the turbines, said he courted wind companies to come to the area after witnessing opposition to a wind farm proposal on the coast near Portland.
"We went to the planning hearings in Portland and saw it was crazy down there, so we said 'come inland'," he said.
Farmers who, like Mr Robertson, have towers built on their properties are likely to earn $4000 to $8000 a tower in annual rent.
But not all farmers in the Macarthur area are happy.
Annie Gardner, a sheep farmer whose property is a kilometre from the proposed wind farm site, is leading the fight against the development.
She believes proximity to the wind farm could devalue her property by up to 40 per cent.
"We will experience a loss of income upwards of $50,000," she said, citing the impact of construction work and vibration from the turbines on her super-fine woolgrowing business.
But Mr Robertson said he could see no downside to the wind farm, and would be comfortable to live with the turbines nearby.
"We dont live in fear. We can't find people who live among (wind turbines) and are disturbed," he said.
The wind development manager for Southern Hydro, Brian Hall, said the wind farm proposal complied with Victorian standards.
He said neighbouring properties were considered during panel hearings before farms were approved.
"There is no evidence that farm animals can't cohabit with a wind farm, but if someone has specific evidence we'd be happy to consider it," Mr Hall said.
Southern Hydro expects the wind farm to be approved by late this year and construction, which could take up to 18 months, to start next year.
Moyne Shire chief executive Graham Shiell said the wind farm would bring 600 jobs to the region during construction.
Twenty jobs would continue once it was completed.
Mr Shiell said the farm would also boost rate income for the shire by $300,000, or 3 per cent.
"That can be put back into infrastructure," he said.
Local residents have been inundated with information from people for and against the wind farms.
An anti-wind farm group, Landscape Guardians, is holding a meeting at Hawkesdale tonight, while Southern Hydro has planned an information day next week to allow the community to see the proposed layout of the wind farm and offer feedback.