A proposal to build the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere in Tasmania is set to be challenged in court as opposition from a group of concerned local residents intensifies.
The No TasWind Farm Group (NTWFG) has lodged a claim with the Federal Court against a proposal by Hydro Tasmania to build a $2 billion wind farm on King Island, seeking an injunction halting the project and stopping the company from arguing it is entitled to proceed with a two year feasibility study into the development.
Announced in November last year, the TasWind project involves construction of a 200-turbine wind farm on King Island off the north west coast of Tasmania which would capture wind from the Roaring Forties and be connected to the national electricity grid on the mainland via a high voltage cable running beneath Bass Strait.
Hydro says the project will not only produce clean renewable energy and generate 500 jobs during construction but will benefit the local community through creation of 45-60 direct and indirect long-term jobs, upgrades to infrastructure such as fibre-optic and shipping facilities and direct payments to landowners, owners of neighbouring properties and an annual ‘community dividend’.
NTWFG, however, says the development will cover an area of almost 20 percent of the island, would forever change its character and compromise its advantage as a tourism destination – not to mention fears about health impacts from the turbines and potential threats to endangered bird life.
Furthermore, the group says the feasibility study itself would be detrimental as the prospect of the farm proceeding would create uncertainty and deter tourism-related investment throughout the two years it took place.
In its submission, NTWFG also argues Hydro has reneged on a proposal not to proceed with the study unless 60 percent of the island’s 1500 residents support the proposal.
In June, the company announced its intention to commence the study even though only 59 percent of 878 respondents to a survey undertaken on its behalf by market research firm EMRS indicated their support for the project.
“The NTWFG welcomes community consultation but believes a feasibility study is not only unnecessary but would have a devastating effect on the Island’s economy” a statement on the group’s web site says.
“The study would place King Island in suspended animation for two years, stifle investment and drive down property values.”
Should it go ahead, construction of the project is expected to begin in 2017 and take around two years to complete.