Wind farm concerns

Delburn residents have formed an alliance to object to a proposed wind farm in the area.
photograph hayley mills
Delburn residents have formed an alliance to object to a proposed wind farm in the area. photograph hayley mills

A group of residents in Delburn have formed an alliance to object to a proposal in which up to 53 wind turbines, with some as tall as 250 metres, could be built just over a kilometre from properties.

Operating as the Strzelecki Com­munity Alliance, the group said it was supportive of renewable energy projects but raised concerns with OSMI Australia's Delburn Wind Farm project on the basis of the proximity of the turbines to a large number of properties.

However, not all nearby residents are opposed to the wind farm going ahead, with some in support of the renewable energy project.

OSMI announced the wind farm proposal in March and began community consultation in May with the opening of a drop-in information centre in Boolarra.

The turbines are proposed to be located in HVP plantations in the Delburn area, covering the Darlimurla, Silver Creek and Thorpdale plantations.

OSMI estimated the project would cost between $400 and $500 million and take about 18 months to build from 2022.

Turbines could have a total tip height of 250 metres – the towers would be as tall as 160 metres with blades spanning 90 metres in length and would generate 300 megawatts of power.

However, the Strzelecki Community Alliance has voiced concerns with the wind farm proposal, citing potential issues around noise, vibrations, flicker and visual pollution.

The group was also concerned the placement of turbines so close to privately-owned properties would erode the rights of the landowner and devalue nearby properties.

In a statement, the group said: "Any land owned by a neighbour that falls within the one-kilometre radius is now effectively an industrial zone. The landowner will not be able to build on that land".

"The three-kilometre radius cuts through the heart of the communities of Boolarra, Yinnar, Narracan, Darlimurla, Driffield, Hernes Oak, Coalville and Delburn," the statement read.

Should the project go ahead, Yinnar resident and alliance member Sindy Van Eede would have two turbines just over one kilometre from her home.

"My health, wellbeing and lifestyle will potentially be detrimentally affected by the noise, infrasound, and shadow flicker, occurring 24 hours, seven days a week," she said.

Penelope Swales, who lives about two-and-a-half kilometres from one of the proposed turbines, initially had some concerns about the windfarm.

However, after researching the project, she has changed her stance and is now supportive of it going ahead.

Citing improved air quality and meaningful action on climate change as key motivators for her support, Ms Swales said she had experienced a decrease in lung capacity since moving to the Latrobe Valley a few years ago.

"I think the benefits [of the windfarm] will really outweigh the determinants," she said.

"We have put up with a lot of dirty industry. I'm certainly happy to put up with a clean one."

She said the proposed wind farm had not affected her desire to live in the area.

"I want to see meaningful action on climate change and if that means living next door to a windfarm then I am prepared to do that."

While some nearby residents expressed concerns about potential devalued property prices, Ms Swales said when she was looking to buy, proximity to heavy industry "didn't seem to affect the price if the property is otherwise desirable", citing the west end of Traralgon and its proximity to the paper mill.

She hoped the community could work with OSMI to "reach a good outcome".

"I'd be really sad if there were division in the community over this," she said.

"I would really encourage people, if they have concerns, to go and talk to them [OSMI] rather than just worry about it.

"Now is the time to have your say and, from what they were telling me, it sounds like they are really changing their plans in accordance with people's concerns."

OSMI community engagement officer Ruth Harper said the company had engaged an independent acoustic specialist to conduct noise modelling for the project, which would be peer-reviewed by an Environment Protection Authority-accredited noise auditor.

She said OSMI had also engaged independent landscape and visual consultants to assess the visual impacts.

"OSMI is currently taking feedback from the community and incorporating that feedback into the second iteration of the concept plan, and in particular will take into account feedback received to date regarding noise, visual impacts and general set back distance from residences," she said.

"The design review is planned to be released for public comment by the end of July."

In terms of the erosion of landowner rights, Ms Harper said the project was required to account for all existing dwellings and she encouraged anyone with a planning permit or planning approval to build to contact OSMI so those plans could be taken into account.

"Once the wind farm has a planning permit, the onus would then be on the land owner to approach the operator and local council to determine whether they had any objections to future developments - as is the case with any existing structure," she said.

Interested community members are invited to fill in a public survey to help guide the project and show their interest in the investment opportunity. The survey is available at surveymonkey.com/r/OSMI2019.

For more information, or to subscribe to OSMI's e-newsletter, go to osmi.com.au or email contactus@osmi.com.au.

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