What could end up being one of Australia’s largest wind farms, the Golden Plains Wind Farm, received planning approval from the Victorian Government last week, and now awaits approval by the federal government.
The Golden Plains Wind Farm is being developed by Australian renewable energy developer WestWind Energy, part of the WestWind Group headquartered in Kirchdorf in northwestern Germany. Set to be built near the small township of Rokewood in the Golden Plains Shire, close to the second largest city in the state, the Golden Plains Wind Farm will consist of up to 228 wind turbines rated anywhere between 3 megawatt (MW) to 5 MW and will generate over 3,500 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity each year — enough to power the equivalent of over 500,000 homes and prevent over 3.5 million tons of CO2.
One point worth noting is that the exact capacity of the proposed wind farm seems to be up in the air, so to speak. Neither announcement by either WestWind Energy or the Victorian Government give any hint as to the exact size of the approved project. The Project Specifications section on WestWind Energy’s website clarifies that somewhat, stating that “WestWind completed further feasibility investigations into the proposed development site and made the commercial decision to pursue a planning permit for an 800-1000 MW project.”
I spoke to Tobias Geiger, the Managing Director of WestWind Energy, who explained that “we are likely to use wind turbines with an installed capacity that is likely to exceed 5 MW based on recent technology developments.” Further, “Due to required changes in the buffering methodology for the threatened Victorian Brolga population under the Planning Permit, we expect the project to end up having approximately 200 wind turbines.” This was indirectly referenced in the announcement made by the Victorian Government, which said that the project could reduce from 228 turbines to 181, “with the number depending on how the proponent chooses to meet environmental restrictions.”
In the end, therefore, Geiger and WestWind Energy expect, “Based on current considerations for turbine selection and likely turbine numbers, we expect the total installed capacity of the project to be just over 1,000 MW.”
Announced by the Victorian Government last week, the Golden Plains Wind Farm was successfully granted planning approval by the Victorian Planning Minister following the successful completion of the Environmental Effects Statement. The project must now be considered for approval by the federal government.
If approved, the AU$1.5 billion Golden Plains will take approximately four years to build and will create over 700 construction jobs in addition to over 70 direct operational jobs in the state. Upon completion, Golden Plains could generate electricity equivalent to between 8% to 10% of Victoria’s electricity consumption, approximately a third of the recently-closed Hazelwood coal-fired power plant which, for a long time, was the centerpiece of Victoria’s energy supply.
“The Minister’s approval of the project is great news and paves the way for further valuable investment into the local region,” said WestWind Energy Managing Director Tobi Geiger. “This project will provide the equivalent annual power output of 1/3 of the recently closed Hazelwood coal fired power generator, while providing drought proof income to 40 host landholders. This, along with a substantial community benefits program, will ensure the local community benefits directly from this project.
“We would also like to acknowledge the community members that took the time to make submissions to the planning panel and attended the hearing. We appreciate the time and effort they made so that the panel members could gain a better understanding of the project and the community that surrounds it.”
A project the size and scope of Golden Plains could mean a lot not only for Victoria’s renewable energy industry but also for Australia. Following the landslide (read: bloodbath) Victorian state election in November essentially gave the elected party a strong mandate to continue with their bold renewable energy policies, the Golden Plains Wind Farm could be a strong example for other states to follow.
“This project will create hundreds of local jobs, reduce greenhouse emissions and generate enough electricity to power more than 400,000 homes — boosting supply and putting downward pressure on power prices,” said Acting Minister for Planning Lily D’Ambrosio.
“This is a fantastic project which will bring hundreds of jobs to our area, strengthening the renewable energy industry and taking clean power to thousands of homes,” added Member for Buninyong Michaela Settle.