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Greens told: rely on facts to assess wind farm project

Bob Brown’s criticisms of the southern hemisphere’s largest proposed wind farm have been backed by Tasmania’s Greens leader but dismissed by the proponent, who claims much opposition is misinformed or “political”.

Cassy O’Connor yesterday ¬endorsed Dr Brown’s concerns about the environmental impact of the 1000-megawatt project, proposed for Tasmania’s far northwest, urging proponent UPC Renewables to obtain a ¬“social licence”.

“It’s massive, is likely to impact on a wide range of threatened and endangered species and the transmission line for the project may seriously impact forest areas and private land,” the state Greens MP said.

“We have yet to see UPC’s ultimate plans or development application. (However) we strongly urge the proponent to listen to the chorus of concern about this proposal from across the community and political spectrum.”

Ms O’Connor said while the Greens were “strong supporters of more clean energy”, there was a need for “standards … that mitigate negative outcomes and ¬deliver any large-scale wind farm proposal the social licence it needs”.

Rising Green opposition to the project was seized on by the state Labor opposition.

“There is now an unholy ¬alliance across the far left and the far right of politics that threatens to undermine jobs and investment in renewable ¬energy,” Labor energy spokesman David O’Byrne said.

“The Liberals and the Greens are not interested in evidence — they are putting fear campaigns above jobs in renewable energy.”

Hong Kong-based UPC plans hundreds of turbines over two sites: Robbins Island and Jim’s Plain, and a newly revised 90-100km-long transmission line to feed power into the grid at Hampshire.

UPC chief executive Anton Rohner said he held Dr Brown in “high regard” but said much of the criticism of the project ignored facts, science and significant benefits.

Dr Brown, a former federal Greens leader and leading conservationist, has expressed concern about bird deaths, particularly among wedge-tailed eagles, but Mr Rohner said there were only two active eagle nests on Robbins Island.

“We’re looking to put in mitigation strategies — anti-collision technology, offsets,” Mr Rohner said.

“And we haven’t identified any migratory birds going over the area where we’re looking to put in infrastructure and turbines.

“We’re not going to get into a slanging match with Bob Brown. Our only issue is that we want people to see the facts and figures. We’ve invited him to the island and he’s going to come to investigate himself.

“He’s concerned that 50km offshore people will see wind turbines; I’m not sure who will see that.”

Owners of Robbins Island, the Hammond Wagyu beef farming family, conceded bird deaths from the turbines were inevitable. “Realistically, as with cars and tall buildings, there are deaths,” said Chauncey Hammond.

He would not disclose how much money the family stood to gain from the project.

“It is a commercial arrangement,” he said, adding that Tasmanians would benefit, including from 50 jobs.

“For us it is not just about what the Hammonds will get out of it,” he said.

Mr Rohner said he was disappointed people had formed a view about the project “without any information or any data”.

“I think there’s a fair amount of politics at play,” he said.

Source: The Australian