Wind Park Project

Item

Title

Wind Park Project

depicts

Description

Hepburn wind park

Facts & figures

Two modern wind turbines each of 2 Megawatt (MW) capacity
Situated within 10kms of Daylesford at Leonard’s Hill.
The energy produced by the turbines will be equivalent to approximately 2,000+ homes - nearly all of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs.
Potential of saving 14,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to removing 3,200 cars from the road.
The tower will be 68M high with blade length of 41M.
Total project cost of $9 million with $975,000 being committed to the project by Sustainability Victoria.

History

In late 2004 Per Bernard (current President of HREA) and a group of local people went to a community consultation meeting being run by Wind Power PL in regards to a wind farm proposal at Dean (nr Ballarat). The tone of this meeting was very hostile and there was strong local opposition to the project. It was obvious to Per and others that large scale wind farms would be hard to implement in Australia, especially coupled with low Mandatory Renewable Energy Targets (MRET).

Following this meeting the idea for a small scale project was discussed within the group, a model Per had seen in his native Denmark. It is estimated that some 150,000 Danes have already invested in wind power and own wind turbines or shares in wind turbine co-operatives, 75% of the 5,500 turbines in the country (providing approx. 20% of their energy) being privately owned by local co-operatives.

Whilst researching this model and its potential, Per was referred to Future Energy. Future Energy is a company specialising in small scale renewable energy projects and through discussions with David Shapero, Per realised that this was a good possibility for the town.

HREA was formed in early 2005 with the intention of initiating an environmentally appropriate, economically responsible small-scale wind project that would meet the energy needs of the community. It was important the project provide investment opportunities for local residents and return a social dividend, as well as building long-term resilience. Key priorities included;

Researching all the issues thoroughly
Ensuring the process was transparent
Remaining independent of local govt. and any developer whilst seeking their input
Only proceeding if there was sufficient community support.

Future Energy began working with HREA in early 2005. The first stages of the project involved canvassing community opinions about the concept. A public meeting was held and street stalls were run and both opponents and supporters were invited to contribute to the debate. The response from the community was overwhelmingly positive, and the association grew quickly as people joined to demonstrate their support. The few objections that were put forward tended to relate to larger scale projects and were often abstract rather than concrete concerns (such as a belief that climate change itself was not happening).

During this time Future Energy was building on previous research to find an appropriate site. The initial proposal being canvassed with interested landowners and their neighbours, along with considering the following matrix of factors:

Significant Landscape Overlay
Proximity to power infrastructure and town (within 10km)
Ease of access to site for construction and maintenance
Wind profile
Visual amenity and tree cover
Historical & aboriginal significance of site
Interested landholder willing to lease land

In the final analysis there were two sites which offered the best outcomes, Leonard’s Hill being chosen for the tree coverage in the area that screens the site for most local residents, whilst the hilltop itself is bare (offering clearer wind access for the turbines).
With the best site identified and a preliminary contract negotiated with the local landowner, HREA and Future Energy held public meetings and went door-to-door in the Leonard’s Hill area. They talked with local people about the wind farm, and listened to their opinions and concerns about the project.

Once again, there was a high level of support in the area with only a handful of residents expressing concerns, some of which related to personal and familiar differences with the landowner, rather than objections to the turbines themselves.

Over the following 12 months Future Energy engaged a raft of consultants on behalf of HREA to undertake the studies required for the planning application. The project was to be assessed under local planning guidelines administered through the council, as the project is under 30MW capacity. The studies undertaken included:

Flora and Fauna
Visual Amenity
Acoustic
Heritage
Geotechnical

In addition, a wind monitoring tower was erected on the site, to gather accurate wind speed data to inform the economic modeling of the co-operative and the design of the turbines needed.
Throughout this time HREA and Future Energy were also very active in building a strong base of support within the community. Many different modes of communication were used including:

Street stalls
Bus tours to Challicum Hills
HREA newsletter
Articles in the local media
Letters from our members in the local media
Forums & public meetings

The full planning application was submitted to council towards the end of 2006 and members were encouraged to send in letters of support. The council received over 350 letters of support and 18 letters of objection. Of the 18 houses closest to the site 9 were objectors, several of whom were related to the landowner. Of the two closest houses, one resident was a member of HREA.

The application was passed by council in Feb. 2007, this approval was then challenged and the application was passed on to VCAT. There were 28 formal objectors for the VCAT hearing, only 15 of whom live within 3 Km of the site. Some of the other objectors came from a local Landscape Guardians Group which had recently formed in response to a larger scale wind farm being proposed in the Smeaton area. Future Energy engaged a barrister to act on behalf of HREA. Objections to the proposal included:

Whether visual impact would be acceptable to local residents and tourists
Acceptable level of noise*
Shadow flicker
Proximity to houses
Possible injury to local wildlife
Turbines affecting local spring water
Impact on traffic and aviation
Whether the project would return projected energy and greenhouse benefits

VCAT ruled in favour of granting a permit for the site with several new conditions imposed including:

The provision of screening plantings at the boundary of the site and offered to homeowners within a 1km radius of the site. This condition relates to visual amenity.
Additional studies into bat populations in the area and a management plan to reduce vermin and rabbit populations (to reduce the presence of raptor predators and the risk of their being killed).
The commissioning of an Environmental Management Plan (not specified by the council planning scheme).
Procedures for reporting and investigating any bird deaths after commissioning.
A limitation on micro-siting to ensure it does not move the turbines closer to any residences. This condition relates to the studies relating to acoustic levels and shadow flicker.
Additional monitoring posts commissioning to ensure the turbines comply with regulatory standards for shadow flicker and sound levels.

where is the project at now?
The Hepburn Community Wind Park Cooperative (http://www.hepburnwind.com.au) has now formed and is taking the project through development into operation. This cooperative will own the turbines and will manage the various contracts with Powercorp, the landholder etc. and adminster the co-operative and share dividends. The cooperative has a board of directors to guide the next phase in conjunction with Future Energy. The tasks they have undertaken include:

Enter contractual agreements with Sustainability Victoria, the landholder, connection to the grid with Powercorp, turbine manufacturers, the sale of wind energy etc.
Developed investor information materials
The cooperative is currently raising the $9 million dollars required for the project
Sourcing turbines and supervising the construction process
Managing membership database and financial management of the project
Setting parameters for social dividend and administering dispersal
Managing maintenance schedule and ongoing contractual obligations after construction

Why has this project succeeded?
1. People
This project is an excellent example of the power of community partnerships that foster leadership and build on community strengths. HREA was initiated by a group of committed, passionate people, who have a high level of professional skill. The strengths of the committee include: project management in construction and wind energy systems, community development, engineering, strategic financial planning and accounting, media and strategic social change – to name just a few.

All committee members contributed their skills at different stages of the project and in different ways, in addition to which they were all community members who used their personal networks to promote the project and its outcomes. The committee was also keen to source additional expertise, wherever it was required, the most important of which was Future Energy.

The partnership with Future Energy formed the foundation of this project, offering specialised project development, financial support (and carrying the risk for this), liaison with council, government bodies, local residents and consultants. Without the skills and experience brought to the project by Future Energy, it is unlikely that it would have succeeded at all.

In addition to this, the project has captured the imagination of the community and it is ultimately the support of the people within our community which has made this successful.

2. Process
From initial conception through to the planning application (and beyond to construction) this project has sought a balance between consultation/participation and the focused action required for project management. The project has involved hundreds of hours of detailed attention to meet the technical specifications of the planning application. It has also required bringing the community along with the process and seeking their input where it was possible and appropriate.

Of note in the process, is the need to act rather than waiting for consensus. Our initial enquiries established that a large and often silent majority of the community, support the project and action on climate change (ref. 350+ letters of support) whilst a vocal minority object, often gaining unequal media attention for their concerns. Without this support the project would not have proceeded. Equally, we have gone to great lengths to include our dissenters, listen to their concerns and find middle ground. This has not always been possible, but is an ongoing conversation we are engaged in.

3. Strategy
This project has followed a distinct strategy, which evolved during the project. The key elements of this strategy include:

Establish the viability of project – both technical and community support
Build a strong, visible base of support
Establish partnerships with skilled organisations
Keep people informed, inspired and motivated throughout the process through clear, positive information
Ensure thorough research and professional, unbiased consultants
Relationship building with local residents, in the vicinity of the turbines
Inclusiveness and respect for difference.
Keeping media local and focused on site-specific issues, not engaging in reactionary debate.
Shared leadership and utiising individual skills

what does this mean for you and your community?
Community-owned, renewable energy infrastructure can offer your community many benefits. Whether it is wind, biomass, solar or geothermal, taking responsibility for generating your own power is a way for your community to act today on climate change.

Community-owned systems can be tailored to the needs of your community and build resilience through offering a diversity of supply and a strong financial investment in the future. Small scale renewables fill a niche between large commercial endeavors and individual action. They support the whole of your community and not just those who can afford to install their own systems. Whether you are harnessing methane from a local tip, or installing a wind farm, choosing to take control and create the future you want for your community, is the best choice you can make.

* Modern wind turbines are amazingly quiet. People who actually visit modern wind turbines are invariably surprised to find the noise is so low as to be not significant. People on the bus tour to Challicum Hills probably heard the farmer who lives 400 metres from the nearest turbine say that the turbines never bother him. He said that if he tries, he could hear a slight sound at most once a month but has never heard anything from within his house.
Victorian planning policy, turbines must be far enough away from residents to ensure any noise is below the limits set. The Victorian Policy states that the noise limit is 40dBA or 5dBA above background noise levels, whichever is the higher. The Wind Park must comply with these standards. In a rural environment, even without wind turbines, ambient noise levels can vary from 20dBA (very quiet) when there is no wind noise, up to 60dBA when it is windy. When wind speeds are less than about 3.5m/s turbines do not turn and therefore do not produce noise. As wind speed rises, people are surprised to find that normal wind noise in vegetation and building structures can be significant (up to 60dBA). Usually, the noise from wind turbines is completely masked by the wind noise in the environment.

Group organising/creating the project

uri

Date initiated (if known)

2004

Current status

Unknown

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Title Alternate label Class
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