Forces are mustering in the Crookwell district to convince an energy company to place its transmission line underground.
Transgrid is proposing to build a 360km line between Maragle in the Riverina to Bannaby near Taralga. The 550 kilovolt infrastructure with 65 metre high towers would pass through the Crookwell district. It is designed to bring more renewables online, link up with the Snowy 2 scheme and increase energy supply for NSW.
But community forces have rallied in opposition to its potential impact on the environment, property values, health, landscape and other aspects.
A newly incorporated group, HumeLink Alliance will host a community meeting at Grabben Gullen Hall on Tuesday, November 9 at 7pm. The group was previously known as Resist HumeLink.
Member and Bannister landholder Russell Erwin said the aim was to update people and boost awareness about the project, without Transgrid's "spin and deletions" and present an underground option for the transmission line, which the group is promoting. The meeting will also discuss fundraising for an estimated $50,000 feasibility study into the underground alternative.
Mr Erwin said the Upper Lachlan Shire had put up with enough from windfarms and an existing 330kV line running through the district. Transgrid was proposing another two in future.
"The prime purpose of this meeting is to tell people that Transgrid's overhead plan is not necessarily the best option and that it is the most damaging one to the environment, landscape and property values," he said.
"...With its 65 to 75 metre towers running parallel with the existing 330kV/35 metre line, it will industrialise much of the southern and eastern part of the district we love and call home."
Mr Erwin said members had already spoken to a well known research company about doing a study on the underground option. The company had completed similar investigations in Victoria.
Another member, Andrea Strong, has completed a 16-page report titled 'Undergrounding HumeLink - Reducing the Visual Impacts on the Upper Lachlan Region.'
She told The Post that Transgrid had not spelt out the visual effect to landholders.
"People just don't know," she said.
"Countries around the world in Europe and Asia are deciding enough is enough and they don't want them...These transmission lines are pollution and the impacts for people living here are serious. They are already living within 500 metres of an existing line and this will be even closer."
Mrs Strong's Gunning property will be affected by the line.
She cited a recent paper by the National Parks Association (NPA) stating that "almost all new transmission links are underground throughout Europe, in fact are mandated in some countries, and much of Asia."
In 2010, the Netherlands capped the total length of overhead transmission and distribution. Every new kilometre of overhead line had to be compensated by undergrounding an equivalent length.
"Engineers are telling us that there have been major advances in underground cabling technology. It is entirely feasible and the world is looking on in disbelief as Australia builds more overhead transmission lines," Mrs Strong's report stated.
She also presented the alternative to Upper Lachlan Shire Council's October 21 meeting and requested financial assistance for the study. Mr Erwin said the group had a good hearing but the council could not make any decisions now as it had gone into caretaker mode before the election.
Transgrid has previously discounted an underground line, saying it would be cost prohibitive and would involve an eight-metre depth. However Mrs Strong said the company had stated in the past week that it would undertake a feasibility study on this option.
"It is important that it be independent. They say they are trying to rebuild trust with the community," she said.
A Transgrid spokeswoman confirmed that while undergrounding was not considered a viable option, the company would commission a feasibility study in response to community feedback.
"There are advantages to installing cables underground including visual amenity and some weather events, (but) the disadvantages overall are considered by Transgrid to be greater," she said.
"The cost of undergrounding 500kV lines as of 2021 is in the order of 10 times higher in magnitude than overhead lines. Due to the scale of the HumeLink project, even if only some sections were placed underground it would result in significantly higher electricity costs for all NSW households and businesses."
In addition, land above underground cables could not be used for agriculture and farming due to concrete overlay. Moreover, the below surface cables posed maintenance issues, were at high-risk of deterioration from moisture seepage and network faults were harder to identify.
Mr Erwin argued the Just Terms legislation did not provide adequate compensation for landholders affected by the easement and the overhead lines.
"If it were underground there would be no effect," he said.
"My point is that I'd forgo compensation because it wouldn't impact property values."
The Transgrid spokeswoman said that for the majority of properties impacted the company was able to reach a negotiated agreement with the landowner.
"However, we have also heard that some landowners are not satisfied with the compensation process. We are sharing this feedback with relevant stakeholders outside of Transgrid," she said.
The company is exploring a corridor with 200 metre easement but expects to publish a narrowed 70-metre refinement this year. The company says an environmental impact study will be exhibited in 2022.
Do you have something to say about this issue? Send a letter to the editor. Click here for the Goulburn Post,