A massive wind farm proposed for construction in Queensland’s Tablelands region has been shrunk to less than half its original size, after 114 of the 200 turbines originally proposed were cut to avoid sensitive ecological heritage sites and cultural.
Project developer Ark Energy – part of the huge Korea Zinc Group – said on Thursday that the wind farm will still have a maximum generating capacity of 602MW, which is slightly higher than originally planned, despite the reduction in the number of turbines.
In a new public environment report, presented for assessment by the federal government, Ark says that production will be achieved with up to 86 wind turbines – up from 95 proposed last year, which had already been cut in half from 200 originally proposed.
The turbines will be sized at 7MW, up from the 6.5MW turbines proposed last year – and the project will include associated infrastructure, potentially including battery storage.
The changes come after concerns were raised about the development’s potential environmental impacts, given its location near national parks that are part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area.
The project, which fell into the hands of Ark Energy via its purchase of Epuron in December 2021, was determined last year to be a ‘controlled action’ under the Environmental Protection Act 1999 and Commonwealth Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC Act).
This gives the federal government the power to veto — or approve — the project, based on an assessment of its impact and ability to produce a “net positive outcome” for biodiversity over the longer term.
Ark Energy says the project’s most recent design change removed eight more wind turbines, resulting in a reduction of access roads by 27 km and a relocation of the substation that reduced overhead transmission lines by 4km.
The final proposal also commits to rehabilitating at least 70% of construction disturbances and strategic land offsets in the project area, totaling seven times the construction footprint.
The rehabilitation program aims to be carried out in collaboration with local land protection groups and to integrate indigenous training and employment.
“During the planning and assessment phase of the project, a total of 114 wind turbines out of an initial layout of 200 were removed to address concerns and reduce impacts,” a statement on the project’s website reads.
“The project is now less than half its original size. It completely avoids any rainforest and the nearest disturbance to the western edge of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area is 600m in one place and nearly 1km or more otherwise.
Ark Energy’s managing director for development in Queensland, Anthony Russo, said the final proposal is the result of two years of ecological assessment work and intensive consultation with a range of stakeholders including environmentalists, traditional owners and the local community.
“There is an urgent need to increase the supply of renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions, replace fossil energy sources and meet the growing demand for electricity,” Russo said.
“The conservation of Australia’s unique natural environment and biodiversity is equally important. Achieving these priorities together…requires sound science, an interdisciplinary approach, and careful planning and management.
Russo says the project area for the Chalumbin wind farm was chosen for its “excellent” wind resources and high-voltage transmission lines with capacity, making it imperative to balance the renewable energy benefits of the project. and its inevitable impacts.
“In addition to funding industry-leading community benefits, hundreds of jobs, and millions of economic activities, this proposal provides benefits for the conservation of key species and a pathway to achieve a significant net gain for biodiversity in the project area in the longer term,” he said. said.
The project’s draft public environmental report is now on public display until December 16.
(This story has been updated to clarify turbine count reductions and proposed turbine sizes).
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