Wind companies welcome permit changes

STRUGGLING wind farm groups have claimed a modest win this week with the state government allowing developers to make changes to their permits. 

From next month companies locked into old permits pre-dating 2012 will be allowed to amend their blueprints to include more modern turbines and technology.

The renewable sector yesterday welcomed the small victory. 

The changes roll back some of the strict laws introduced by the Baillieu Liberal government in 2012 and apply to hundreds of proposed turbines across the state. 

Two wind farms in Hawkesdale and Ryan Corner near Port Fairy are still sitting on active permits issued in 2008 for up to 99 turbines. 

Spanish-owned Union Fenosa Wind Australia (UFWA) are still waiting to sign a power purchasing agreement and the outcome of the federal government’s renewable energy target (RET) review. 

Company legal manager Thomas Mitchell welcomed the news. 

“UFWA welcomes (State Planning) Minister (Matthew) Guy’s planning scheme amendment as a very practical acknowledgement of the growing pace of technological improvement in the wind industry,” Mr Mitchell said. 

“We’ll need to examine the amendment in closer detail before we can comment on any specific project, but the opportunity to deploy an improved technology could help a project improve its energy yield and profitability, which boosts the business case at a time when other headwinds, like ongoing uncertainty about energy policy, have stalled further investment in wind farms in Australia.” 

Green groups have accused the government of double standards over the laws, saying some planned wind farms were unfairly locked into older technology, while newer ones could race ahead with the latest improvements. 

“Minister Guy’s decision to amend part of the government’s wind farm planning laws is welcome, but more reform is needed to create jobs in the sector,” Friends of the Earth renewable energy spokesperson Leigh Ewbank said. 

In April, Friends of the Earth claimed $864 million worth of projects had been scrapped in Victoria because of the state’s planning laws. 

A spokeswoman for Mr Guy said the changes would only affect technology and would not apply a to a two-kilometre setback zone between turbines and homes.

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