Moorabool Environment Group supports new wind farms, clean energy

Moorabool shire, located between Ballarat and Melton, can look forward to more clean energy as new wind farms step closer to construction, Moorabool Environment Group president Ben Courtice explains.

Wind farm developer WestWind Energy are seeking to update a 2009 planning permit for a wind farm to be built at Lal Lal, just southeast of Ballarat. They hope to use more modern wind turbines, taller and with a greater output of electricity, and to reduce the number of turbines from 64 to 60. The matter is being dealt with by a planning panel.

The Moorabool Environment Group, of which I am president, supports this proposal (and you can read our submission here). MEG is best known for campaigning to prevent a massive new coal mine at Bacchus Marsh, but we’re also keen supporters of renewable energy. We’ve worked to promote uptake of solar power with the council and local businesses, and were an early supporter of the Hepburn community wind farm.

No New Coal Bacchus Marsh
Moorabool Environment Group standing up for farms at Bacchus Marsh

It’s not the first time WestWind sought to update this planning permit. Under the former Liberal government, known for the most backward anti-wind laws in the world, then Planning Minister Matthew Guy refused a similar application by the company, as highlighted in a question in parliament by Greens leader, Greg Barber.

It’s a bit puzzling that the local objectors to the project have opposed this amendment, which will see not only less turbines (albeit a little taller), but the turbines being removed are those closest to homes, and will make the wind farm compliant with newer, stricter noise regulations introduced since the permit was first given.

The three wind farms proposed in our small shire, of which Lal Lal is one, will contribute about $750,000 per year in rates, as well as payments to a community fund. Farmers hosting turbines will be paid rent. And employment will be created: The Lal Lal project alone is projected to create about 190 jobs during construction, and 20 ongoing jobs in management.

But more importantly, MEG supports large-scale renewable energy to reduce, and ultimately completely replace our reliance on fossil fuels. Wind farms are currently the most effective, cheap and least environmentally damaging of clean energy sources. It’s encouraging to see the positive moves to resume construction of wind farms, after years of policy uncertainty and government hostility which left planning permits sitting in limbo.

It would be good to see the resilience of local farming and our community increased. Wind farm income helps to drought-proof farms. We don’t want to be reliant on growing commuter-driven suburban sprawl and weekend visitors’ discretionary spending for our shire’s prosperity: we want to protect farmland for food production, and local employment. Wind farming fits with that.

Ben Courtice was campaign coordinator at Yes2Renewables 2011-2012, and is current president of the Moorabool Environment Group.

 

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