No decision yet on wind farm

Acciona plans to build largest onshore wind farm in Australia south-west of Warwick. The company says it plans to commence construction in the “second half” of 2021, despite not yet having State Government approval for the project.

By Jeremy Sollars

A development application for the largest onshore wind farm in Australia – proposed for land in both the Southern Downs and Goondiwindi council areas – is still being assessed by the Queensland Government, which has asked for more information on noise assessments relating to the proposed operation.

Spanish-owned global renewable energy developer Acciona lodged its development application with the state government in October last year, seeking approval to develop the ‘MacIntyre Wind Farm’ across 40,000 of land the company is leasing from private landholders.

The wind farm would consist of 120 turbines with a ‘wing-tip height’ of 25 metres, with around 20 of the turbines to be operated by government-owned energy provider CleanCo.

The land proposed for the development is in the Cement Mills, Pikedale and Goldfields areas, with the main portion within the Goondiwindi Regional Council area.

A new powerline to carry electricity generated from the wind farm to the Millmerran power station would run through the Karara and Leyburn districts, with the Durikai State Forest forming a ‘buffer zone’ along the northern extent of the wind farm.

A spokesman for Acciona this week told Warwick and Stanthorpe Today that the MacIntyre Wind Farm “is still with the State Government for consideration”.

“As is usually the case with these types of applications, there is ongoing back and forth between ACCIONA and the State Government including a request for an updated noise assessment,” the spokesman said.

“ACCIONA is still planning for a construction date early in the second half of the year (2021).”

The Queensland Government decides wind farm applications in the state and local councils have no formal say in the process.

The agency in charge of assessments is the State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA), an arm of the powerful Department of State Development.

But Acciona did meet with Southern Downs Regional Council officers in early March, a council spokeswoman confirmed this week.

“Council officers met with Acciona representatives to discuss various issues including the establishment of an office in Warwick, the work of the Community Engagement Committee and the status of government approvals,” the spokeswoman said.

“It is envisaged that more frequent meetings will be held as the project progresses.”

Documents available on the SARA website show the agency late last year asked Acciona for more information on projected noise levels generated by the wind turbines.

A formal ‘Information Request’ issued by SARA to Acciona in November stated that ‘background noise monitoring has not been conducted (by Acciona) to inform the provided acoustic assessment”.

“As a result, it has not been demonstrated that predicted noise levels at sensitive receptors reasonably achieve the criteria” set by the government’s ‘Wind Farm Code,” the document stated.

Acciona is yet to respond but had initially been given until February 26 this year. No relevant documents were available on the SARA website as of this week.