A massive wind farm proposed for construction in Queensland’s Tablelands region has been reduced to less than half its original size, after cutting 114 of the 200 turbines initially proposed to avoid sensitive environmental and cultural heritage sites.
The project’s developer, Ark Energy — part of the massive Korea Zinc conglomerate — said Thursday that the wind farm will still have a maximum generating capacity of 602 megawatts, slightly higher than Originally plannedthough with lower turbine numbers.
In a new Public Environment report, which has been put up for evaluation by the federal government, Ark says that output will be achieved with as many as 86 wind turbines — down from 95 proposed last year, which was already halved from the 200 initially proposed. .
The wind turbines will be 7 megawatts in size, up from the 6.5 megawatts proposed last year – and the project will include associated infrastructure, including potential battery storage.
The changes come after concerns were raised about the potential environmental impacts of the development, given its location near national parks that form part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland’s World Heritage area.
The project, which came into the hands of Ark Energy through its purchase of Epuron in December of 2021, was identified last year as a “controlled measure” under the Commonwealth’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
This gives the federal government veto power – or approval – of the project, subject to an assessment of its impact and potential to deliver a “net positive outcome” for biodiversity in the long term.
Ark Energy says the latest design change to the project removed eight more wind turbines, reducing access roads by 27km, and relocating a substation that cut overhead transmission lines by 4km.
The final proposal also makes an “industry first” commitment to rehabilitate at least 70% of the building disturbance and land-based strategic offsets within the project area, a total of seven times the construction footprint.
The rehabilitation program is intended to be conducted in collaboration with local land care groups and to integrate training and employment of indigenous people.
“Over the course of the project planning and appraisal phase, a total of 114 wind turbines were removed from the initial design of 200 turbines to address concerns and minimize impacts,” a statement on the project’s website reads.
The project is now less than half its original size. It completely avoids all the rainforest and the nearest disturbance to the western boundary of the Wet Tropics in the Queensland World Heritage Area is 600m at only one site otherwise approximately 1km or more. “
Anthony Russo, general manager of Queensland development company Ark Energy, says the final proposal is the result of two years of environmental assessment work and extensive consultation with a range of stakeholders including environmental scientists, traditional owners and the local community.
“Increasing the supply of renewable energy is urgent to reduce carbon emissions, replace fossil fuel energy sources and meet the growing demand for electricity,” says Russo.
“Conserving Australia’s natural environment and unique biodiversity is equally important. Bringing these priorities together… requires robust science, a multidisciplinary approach, and careful planning and management.”
The project area for the Chalombene wind farm has been chosen for its “excellent” wind resource and high-capacity transmission lines, says Russo, making it necessary to strike a balance between the renewable energy benefits of the project and its inevitable impacts.
“In addition to industry-leading community benefit financing, hundreds of jobs and millions in economic activity, this proposal provides conservation benefits for key species and a path to significant net biodiversity gains in the project area over the long term,” he says.
Project draft General environment report It is now on public display until December 16th.
(This story has been updated to reflect reductions in turbine numbers and proposed turbine size.)