Scaled-back plans for the Bango Wind Farm await a final decision by the independent Planning Assessment Commission.
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment has referred the wind farm development application to the independent PAC for approval subject to conditions.
Mike Young, director of resource and energy assessments, said the department thoroughly assessed the merits of the project by CWP Renewables, which is 30km north of Yass near Boorowa and Rye Park.
“During the assessment process, CWP Renewables removed 47 turbines from the original 122 turbine plan, to reduce the impacts on the local community and the environment,” Mr Young said.
The department recommended that four additional turbines be removed to reduce visual impacts on local residents, making a total of 71 turbines recommended for approval.
“Overall, the department found that the changes to the project would strike an appropriate balance between maximising the use of the site’s wind resources and minimising impacts on the local community and environment,” Mr Young said.
We still want the roads brought up to the appropriate condition prior to the commencement of works on site.Chris Berry, Yass Valley Council's director of planning
The potential benefits of the proposal include the creation of around 160 construction jobs, contributions to Yass Valley and Hilltops councils worth around $200,000 per year, and the generation of 240 megawatts of renewable energy every year – enough to power about 117,000 homes.
Mr Young added that considering community feedback and independent advice was integral to the assessment process.
“Department officers visited the site numerous times to better understand the issues raised in submissions.
“We also met with landowners and locals, held a public meeting, and attended community-consultative committee meetings,” Mr Young said.
Concerns about road infrastructure remain
Chris Berry, Yass Valley Council’s director of planning, said that while the reduction in turbines to mitigate environmental effects is a matter for the DPE and the Planning Assessment Commission, the council’s concerns about effects on local infrastructure remain.
“Our concerns relating to the impacts on the local road network and these don’t change.
“We still want the roads brought up to the appropriate condition prior to the commencement of works on site,” he said.
The DPE also recommended strict conditions to minimise potential impacts of the project on the local community and the environment.
Proposed conditions include requiring the company to provide landscaping at residences within 4km of any turbines, upgrade and maintain local roads, and meet noise limits.
Developer disappointed with more reduction
The project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was placed on public exhibition in September 2016 seeking planning approval for a wind farm containing up to 118 wind turbine generators.
In response to submissions received from the local community and government agencies, project developer CWP Renewables chose to reduce the proposed number of wind turbine generators to 75 in May 2017.
Kristy Old, development manager at CWP Renewables, said: “we are delighted to have reached this milestone; however, we are disappointed with the recommendation to remove more turbines.
“It is a matter we will discuss with the Planning Assessment Commission during their review of the project,” Ms Old said.
The Planning Assessment Commission will make a final determination on the approval status of the Bango Wind Farm in the coming months.
On March 14, The Land reported that a number of residents will take their protest to the Planning Assessment Commission on March 22.
Draft agreement on exhibition
At the February ordinary Yass Valley Council meeting, it was resolved that the draft Voluntary Planning Agreement with Bango Wind Farm Pty Ltd for a community enhancement scheme be placed on exhibition.
The agreement, when finalised, will provide an income stream for community grants.
In his planning report, Mr Berry said the draft agreement had been prepared for a contribution of $2,825 per turbine.
Mr Berry said that the contribution rate per turbine for the scheme remained unchanged in light of the recommended reduction in turbines to 71.
“Payments made into the scheme will be lower but then so will the number of turbines,” he said.
The council will receive submissions about the draft until 5pm on Wednesday, April 11.
More about the draft agreement can be found at Yass Valley Council’s website.