State changes won’t counter RET damage to wind industry

THE state government’s promise to relax planning regulations on wind farms is unlikely to lead to a rush of local investment in the industry, according to both pro and anti-wind farm groups.

A spokesman for the 223-turbine farm proposed for near Penshurst said a federal government decision on the renewable energy target was more crucial to the future of the project than state Labor’s promise to reduce the buffer zone around wind turbines from two kilometres to one kilometre.

The present buffer zone gives a veto to landowners within two kilometres of a proposed wind farm.

Penshurst wind farm developer, RES Australia, welcomed the Labor government’s promise to reduce the buffer zone, saying it would allow the project to have more turbines.

However RES Australia spokesman Simon Kerrison said the company would not proceed with the $1 billion project until the federal government had set a decent renewable energy target.

The current target aims to produce 20 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, but the federal government wants to reduce it by more than a third.

Such a cut would reduce the amount of renewable energy produced from 41,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) to about 26,000 GWh but Labor has blocked the move.

Another company, Wind Prospect, downsized its proposal for a wind farm at Willatook a few months ago because of the two-kilometre setback laws and the introduction of more powerful three-megawatt-plus turbines.

Southern Grampians Landscape Guardians president Keith Staff, of Penshurst, said a decision by the federal government to reduce the target would make the state government’s promise to relax planning regulations for wind farms “irrelevant”.

Mr Staff said there should be a moratorium on approvals of any large-scale wind farms until the federal government had set the new target.

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