In a major ‘blow’ for the proponents but a win for many in the community, the Jupiter Wind Farm has been rejected by the Department of Planning and Environment.
It still has to go to the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) for the final say, but the department has recommended that approval of the project should be refused.
Director of Resource and Energy Assessments Mike Young said the department thoroughly assessed EPYC’s application to build a wind farm with 54 turbines near Tarago, including extensive community consultation.
“We considered the application on its merits, paying particular attention to the local context and community,” Mr Young said.
“We acknowledge that the company amended the plans and removed 34 wind turbines in response to community feedback.
“However, our assessment has found that the site and surrounds are fundamentally unsuitable for a large-scale wind farm.”
Mr Young said the wind farm proposal would have unacceptable visual impacts on almost half of the 110 homes located near the project.
“The proposal is inconsistent with local planning controls, which classify a third of the proposed site as an environmental management zone,” Mr Young said.
“The department received 400 objections from the local community and interest groups during the exhibition period.”
He said both Queanbeyan-Palerang and Goulburn Mulwaree Councils had lodged submissions that were also strongly opposed to the wind farm.
Residents against Jupiter Wind Farm spokeseperson Dr Michael Crawford welcomed the news, but said the PAC still has to make the final decision.
“The community is happy with the decision but it is not the end of it - the PAC will make the final decision,” Dr Crawford said.
“The department has laid out a strong case. They and the community have been telling EPYC that the area is not appropriate for a wind farm for years, but they refused to listen.
“As a consequence for four years people in this community have been stressed about how their lifestyle may be impacted
Dr Crawford said people had sold up their properties and lost money as a consequence of the proposed wind farm.
“We hope the PAC will make the same decision as the department,” he said.
“They have caused anguish in the community. They have divided the community. We are happy with the department but angry with those who have forced this on the community unnecessarily.”
Australian Wind Alliance national coordinator Andrew Bray acknowledged the importance of respecting community consultation.
"There are plenty of examples Australia-wide of wind power projects having long-lasting and beneficial impacts for local communities - both financially and socially. However, it is critical that these projects have effective and transparent community engagement from the start to ensure the project delivers good outcomes for everyone,” he said.
“In this instance, that crucial engagement did not happen and this threatened to negatively affect community views not just on this project, but on wind power generally.
“We were concerned about this so we felt it was important to speak out in support of the community and object to the project.”
The PAC will hold a public meeting at the Carrington Inn, Bungendore from 9am on March 21 to review the department’s assessment before making its final decision.
They have also commissioned an independent expert to provide advice about the wind farm’s potential visual impacts.
An EPYC spokesperson said: “the department’s decision is disappointing. We are still reading the documents and will be reviewing our options accordingly.”