If approved, the Delburn wind farm proposed by local developer OSMI will be the first wind project built in the Latrobe Valley, currently home to Victoria’s ageing coal-fired power stations. It will create local employment opportunities and economic activity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Friends of the Earth supports the Delburn wind farm for Gippsland, and we see this project as being part of Victoria’s necessary transition away relying on fossil fuels to meet the state’s electricity needs.
The 180-200 megawatt project is expected to generate an approximate 590,000 MWh of electricity annually using 33 turbines. This is enough renewable energy to power up to 125,000 average Victorian homes every year, equating to an annual saving of 590,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
As Victoria transitions away from fossil fuels, it's essential that clean, healthy and sustainable industries are established to provide communities the benefits of good, climate jobs. This is particularly true in the Gippsland region, which is in the midst of a largely unplanned transition away from coal and native forest logging.
The Delburn wind farm is expected to deliver the following economic benefits to the region:
Create up to 186 new full-time equivalent jobs during construction.
Create up to 24 ongoing jobs over its operating life, and;
Contribute $106 million in increased Gross Regional Product across three Local Government Areas over a 32-year period of construction and operation.
The selection of pine plantation south of Morwell - specifically within the HVP Plantations Thorpdale Tree Farm - as the project site is a sensible choice that will make use of existing industrial land.
This land is already heavily modified. The proposal maximises the use of existing forestry tracks, and is likely to improve fire management at the site.
While the project itself will be purchased by a UK based company, Cubico, the local developer OSMI has established the project with options for community co-investment, meaning neighbours can become joint shareholders in the project.
Friends of the Earth notes that OSMI has undertaken a number of community engagement activities and continues to work with local community members by:
Undertaking an extensive consultation process well in advance of submitting the project for planning approval.
Adjusting the project design in response to the concerns of local community members and organisations.
Including options for community co-investment and establishing a comprehensive community benefits sharing scheme to share economic benefits of the project throughout neighbouring communities.
Under its Neighbour Profit Sharing, the Delburn wind farm will deliver approximately $500,000 per annum directly to local neighbourhoods.
Creating a Community Development Fund offering approximately $150,000 per annum, which would support community projects in the local area.
While the project will require the construction of an on-site substation and electricity infrastructure to connect to the grid, this will be minimal given it will be located close to existing high voltage transmission lines in the Latrobe Valley. Additionally, the project’s location in the state’s east will help ensure it complements existing renewable energy generation in the west by making use of varied wind conditions at different times of day.
OSMI have also proposed building a 50 megawatt ancillary battery storage unit at the site, meaning that renewable energy could be stored temporarily and used when the grid needs it most.
While FoE supports a rapid transition to 100% renewables, we do not support logging or loss of significant vegetation, including vegetation losses for renewable energy schemes.
Under the current proposal submitted to DEWLP, construction of the Delburn wind farm will impact an estimated total of 14 hectares of native vegetation. According to OSMI, it is anticipated that over half of these trees will be able to be retained despite needing to be offset. While this is a notable decrease from earlier plans to remove 42 hectares of native vegetation, Friends of the Earth expects renewable energy developers to protect native vegetation during construction.
During construction, FoE is concerned about the potential loss of up to 54 large trees that may be utilised by koalas and other species, while it is expected that around half of these will be able to be retained. Of particular concern is a known koala tree on the corner of Smiths Road and the Strzelecki Highway. FoE opposes any actions that will impact on this tree and the koala that lives in it.
OSMI have expressed to FoE that this large tree will not be removed and will have protections during wind farm construction under their vegetation management plan.
We will continue to monitor the proposal and liaise with community members and the developer as the project progresses through the planning process.