Bowman’s Creek Windfarm Another Step Forward
BY DI SNEDDON
The Department of Planning and Environment has given the tick of approval to the Bowmans Creek Wind Farm project and referred the matter to the NSW Independent Planning Commission for final assessment.
Submissions to the Commission close on December 15 and the Commission will also hold a public meeting on the proposed development at the Upper Hunter Conservatorium of Music in Muswellbrook (Atherstone Room, Level 1/80 Bridge St, Muswellbrook) on Thursday, December 7, at 2pm with an additional day on December 8 from 10am if deemed needed.
Anyone wanting to speak at the public meeting must pre-register on the Commission’s website and the deadline is midday on Monday, December 4.
Speaking on behalf of residents opposed to the project, Nigel Wood, said local families are upset by the short notice given for the public meeting and submissions.
“Ark energy have had two years and eight months since the release of the environmental impact statement to respond to issues raised by the Department but the community has just 24 days for written submissions and 14 days to prepare for the public hearing,” Nigel said.
“Residents are concerned by the ambiguity of some conditions for example the wind turbines may be upgraded provided the upgrades remain within the approved disturbance area which could mean the turbines could be upgraded to 270m in height.”
Bowmans Creek Wind Farm Pty Ltd, owned by Korea Zinc and managed by their Australian subsidiary Ark Energy Project Pty Ltd (Ark), aims to construct a 347 MW wind farm with up to 56 wind turbines and associated infrastructure on a route that takes in Bowmans Creek, Davis Creek, Goorangoola, Greenlands, Hebden, McCullys Gap, Muscle Creek and Rouchel Brook.
The proposed Bowmans Creek Wind Farm is a State significant development application located in the Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone (REZ).
The decision on whether the Bowmans Creek Wind Farm will be given planning approval has been referred to the NSW Independent Planning Commission because the Department of Planning and Environment received 131 unique submissions objecting to the proposal.
Commissioners Professor Alice Clark (Panel Chair), Mr Adrian Pilton and Mr Richard Pearson have been appointed to determine the development application.
The Commission has access to all previous written submissions made to the Department on this proposed development, however it is particularly helpful for the Commission Panel to also hear the community’s views about the Department’s assessment of the key issues and recommended conditions of consent.
The key issues identified in the Department’s whole-of-government assessment of the development application include energy security,
While the decision is in the hands of the Commission, the Department of Planning and Environment considers the site suitable and has recommended a range of conditions including requirements to minimise visual impacts of the development.
This includes the planting of vegetation screens close to 37 homes including that of Nigel Wood.
Nigel said the Department’s consultant admits the vegetation screens will need to grow for at least 10 years to mitigate any impact but he is also concerned about the risk of bush fire given the vegetation will not meet the 100m clearance around homes and buildings recommended by NSW Rural Fire Service
CASA has also indicated the turbines will need to be fitted with aviation lighting.
“The lights will be seen as red flashing lights for many kilometres, including along the New England Highway and into Muswellbrook which I don’t think people are generally aware of,” Nigel said.
The Bowmans Creek Wind Farm involves the construction of 56 wind turbines up to 220 metres high and associated ancillary infrastructure including a new 330 KV transmission line to connect Transgrid’s existing network at the Liddell substation.
Upper Hunter, Muswellbrook and Singleton Councils have not objected to the proposal but have recommended the implementation of appropriate mitigation and management issues.
The three councils, based on the number of turbines located in their government area, will receive $686 per megawatt per year (plus CPI) from generation of energy to decommissioning which is anticipated to be 25 years.
The Department forecasts the project will provide 172,600 homes with energy and save 957,800 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year.