BALD Hills Wind Farm’s 52 turbines are scheduled to be up and running by June/July 2015.
The first turbine has been erected and more will be erected at a rate of two to three a week.
Spokesperson for Bald Hills Wind Farm (BHWF), Matthew Croome said the project was progressing well and the company had responded to community, environmental and cultural concerns.
Mr Croome was representing the company at a council briefing session on Wednesday, outlining the project and its progress to date.
He told council BHWF had received complaints about speeding trucks/dangerous driving, project traffic volume/noise, dust and working hours from its neighbours.
He said BHWF had addressed these issues by reinforcing safety messages, taking disciplinary action against drivers involved, widening sections of council roads at BHWF’s cost, and dust suppression.
In addition, he said BHWF had fenced off areas of cultural heritage at the site and avoided vegetation removal by placing power poles from the site on cleared private property.
An interested handful of locals listened on as Mr Croome presented to council.
Not paying rates
BHWF, despite having officially started construction early last year, is still not paying rates on the site.
As a construction site, BHWF is not technically in industrial operation.
The rates currently paid are ‘farming’ – which are significantly lower than the industrial rates that will be applied when the project is up and running.
Mr Croome said BHWF would expect to pay around $130,000 per annum in rates once construction has finished.
He noted that the industrial site will effectively only have a “footprint of less than two per cent of the entire site”.
The majority of the land will still be used for farming.
Along with the extra $130,000 in rates, Mr Croome said council, the community and environment could also expect:
• 6 or 7 full time service technicians to maintain the wind farm and manage the site.
• Emission free electricity supply into the grid to power 62,000 homes annually.
• Annual contributions to the Orange Bellied Parrot recovery fund or “similar endangered avian support funds”.
• Continuing local procurement of goods and services, boosting the local economy.
• Development of a ‘Community Fund’.
• Ongoing support for local community groups.
Counting the cost as turbines go up
THE worst nightmares of the affected landowners down Tarwin Lower-Walkerville way are being realised at the moment as the first of the Bald Hills Wind Farm towers go up.
Towering above the landscape at 80 metres in height, plus a 50 metre turbine blade, their impact on the landscape is made all the more impressive (oppressive?) by their location on top of the stand-out geographic feature in the area.
This will make them clearly visible from Wilsons Prom, the Foster hills and even as far as Phillip Island, according to one local resident, Rob Liley.
But as disappointed as he is about the siting of this industrial electricity generating facility so close to the pristine Prom coast, he’s also concerned about what it is costing ratepayers in purely financial terms.
“I’m not against wind farms per se but I think they should pay their own way,” Mr Liley said.
“It’s not enough that we are being run off the road by the trucks servicing the site but it really irks to think what is might be costing the shire and us as ratepayers to have this facility here.
“I mean, how many enquiries are the shire staff having to respond to and whose paying for that? We are. Not Mitsui.
“How many hours now and into the future will be expended on this and from what I understand, the shire isn’t getting much more in rates.”
In fact, the shire could collect less in rates.
It is understood that Bald Hills Wind Farm Pty Ltd will pay about $140,000pa in rates but an equal or greater amount could come off the other farms in the area due to a reduction in values.
“The shire has got enough problems without having to administer the impacts of a major project like this one, especially as it is providing precious few benefits to the local community.”
He also said police had been up for the increased cost of security and traffic control.
Mr Liley said police have had to be called to the area after complaints about the behaviour of truck drivers speeding and not yielding to other drivers on narrow roads.
The shire’s Manager Planning and Environmental Health, Bryan Sword, agreed there was a cost to council administering the impact of the wind farm construction process.
“Council is receiving and responding to a number of general enquiries about the Bald Hills Wind Farm development,” Mr Sword said.
“Typically the concerns raised have related to heavy vehicle movements and their impacts on other road users and road surfaces.
“We have also investigated and responded to enquiries about the nature of the works occurring on-site and the hours of operation.
“We have been working with the wind farm proponent to address and respond to these concerns and have generally found the wind farm proponent to be very responsive to any issues raised.
“Due to the size, scope and public interest in the project, we anticipated that we would receive many enquiries during the construction phase of the project. To date we are monitoring the type and frequency of complaints to ensure that we can manage them within existing resources.”
Mr Liley said he was aware that some local contractors and businesses had pocketed some extra income as a result of the work going on while there was also money going into the local rental market from those working away from home.
But, as revealed last week, there are precious few local jobs on the project.
“I didn’t know the shire council was meeting with the Bald Hills developers. It wasn’t in their newsletter.”
Mr Liley said there would be some benefit derived by having a similar community information meeting down in the Tarwin Lower- Walkerville area.