Lal Lal wind farm

The Lal Lal wind farm was developed by WestWind and received planning approval in 2009. Currently, WestWind are applying to have the permit amended to include larger, more modern turbines than the original permit allowed, and some other matters. The amendment is to go before a state government planning panel. Moorabool Environment Group made the following submission to the planning panel.

Re: Lal Lal Wind Farm ‐ Application to amend permit

Moorabool Environment Group is an incorporated association, based in Moorabool Shire, that works for ecological sustainability and environmental awareness, locally and globally. We were founded in 2007 and represent active members, and supporters on our mailing list, across the shire.

We note that climate change is a global emergency that requires immediate action to reduce greenhouse emissions. Current evidence for climate change is tracking the worst case scenario predictions of many models. Rapid global warming, and associated extreme weather, threatens to severely disrupt the ecological support systems that underpin our society, within decades, if emissions are not stopped as soon as possible.

We note that the state government has set a politically ambitious target to increase renewable energy's share of Victorian electricity generation to 25% by 2020, and 40% by 2025. These targets are eminently achievable, and even modest, given the severity of climate change's threat, and the capacity of current renewable energy technology. It has been demonstrated as entirely possible to provide up to 100% renewable energy within the next 10-15 years if planned appropriately.

Wind farms are widely assessed in various terms, including life-cycle analysis of materials used, as one of the lowest environmental impact forms of energy generation, as well as now one of the cheapest forms of new generation available to build (of all types). All models of future renewable energy grids that we are aware of include a significante component of wind energy.

The current planning amendment by the proponent, West Wind, seeks to update planning approvals originally approved in 2009. Since then, wind turbine technology has moved forward and larger, more efficient models are available that were not catered to in the original permit. These are welcome developments, and we support the current application to amend the permit in question.

We note the following positive points in favour of permitting the requested amendment:

  1. This amendment will enable the wind farm to generate a larger amount of clean renewable energy, consistent with obvious global needs and state and federal policy targets.

  2. This amendment will bring the wind farm into compliance with stricter noise standards introduced since 2009, which we understand is not necessary if the original permit is left unaltered, but which may benefit neighbours.

  3. The amendment is likely to see more than $70,000 extra per year paid in rates to Moorabool Shire, compared to the original planning permit, to a total of almost $300,000 per year.

  4. Given declines in manufacturing and agricultural industry employment in the region, new skilled jobs in engineering/maintenance and other roles managing the wind farm are a significant benefit to the community.

We are aware of many objections that have been raised to wind energy in general, on various grounds. We note the following which suggest the common objections to wind farms, whatever their merits (or lack) otherwise, have little relevance to this particular request to amend:

  1. Newer, larger turbines create no more, and in many cases less noise than older models (and the permit if amended will comply with newer, stricter noise standards)

  2. The increase in height of turbines is modest in proportion to the height already permitted, and the visual impact will not change significantly

  3. The number of turbines will be reduced, creating a larger distance from homes of non-host neighbours to the nearest turbine

  4. No significant impact on native bird or bat populations is expected, according to environmental assessments, from the original proposal or the amendment

  5. The permit includes agreement to remedy any damage to local roads incurred during construction.

We acknowledge that for many residents it may be daunting to have a large construction project start up in what they see as their quiet rural area. While we expect that the completed wind farm will provide little cause for complaint, as other completed wind farms have demonstrated elsewhere, some disruption is inevitable and real. However, we reject that it is an inappropriate disruption in a farming area, which is already an industrialised landscape (being cleared and its ecology heavily altered for farming). Further, the disruption of construction is short in terms of the life of the facility, and minor in comparison to the terrifying disruption likely with unmitigated climate change.

But most importantly, none of these genuine concerns have significant bearing on the proposed, minor amendment to what is an already approved project. We hope you approve the proposed amendment, and that the Lal Lal wind farm commences construction soon.