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AGL Offers Neighbours Free Power

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Outgoing Coopers Gap Wind Farm project manager Neil Cooke and incoming project manager Evan Carless at Thursday's community consultation meeting at Cooranga North

November 24, 2016

AGL is willing to supply all properties within 2km of the boundaries of its proposed Coopers Gap Wind Farm with a 5kw solar power system to help spread the benefits of the project through the community.

The move, which would effectively give between 25 and 35 neighbouring properties relief from power bills, was announced on Thursday afternoon at a community consultation meeting held at the Cooranga North Memorial Hall by outgoing wind farm project manager Neil Cooke.

Mr Cooke said AGL were keen to share the benefits of the project, and thought relieving wind farm neighbours of some – or all – of their future power bills might be a good way to do it.

He said AGL will be approaching landholders over the next few months to get their reaction to the idea.

If it was positive, the company would look at fine-tuning it – for example, properties with existing solar systems might be offered extra storage batteries; and if there were any costs associated with implementing the offer, they would be analysed in detail and possibly covered as well.

* * *

The meeting was the last Coopers Gap community consultation meeting for the year, and Mr Cooke told the 25 people who attended that submissions on the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) had recently closed.

In all, AGL received 24 submissions on the EIS.

Two fully supported the project, between 5 and 7 opposed some aspects of it, and the remainder – which came from Government departments, agencies and local Councils – were generally supportive but raised issues that would need to be addressed as the company worked through them.

Local Councils, for instance, were concerned about possible impacts on their road networks during the wind farm’s construction phase.

And some Government agencies were concerned about potential environmental impacts on native vegetation, threatened species or water supplies.

Mr Cooke said he did not believe some of the concerns raised would be an issue for the project, and was certain others could be addressed to everyone’s satisfaction.

* * *

The meeting was told the company’s current schedule is to address the issues raised in the submissions and lodge a final EIS with the Office of the Co-Ordinator General by the end of December.

If all went to plan, the company hoped the State Government would give its response early next year.

In the meantime, AGL had submitted a connection agreement to Powerlink so that the wind farm’s energy output could be sent to the grid.

It had also called tenders for a head sub-contractor for the project, which closed on November 15.

AGL was now working through these and expected a winning tenderer would be announced in 2017.

Providing the project received funding from the Powering Australian Renewables Fund by the second half of 2017, construction of the wind farm would begin 3 to 6 months after funding approval and would take two years to complete, he said.

Mr Cooke stressed that AGL would not proceed with the project if it could not be financed by the Fund but he was “reasonably confident” it would, providing the company addressed all the issues it needed to cover.

* * *

Mr Evan Carless, who was the wind farm’s Project Manager from 2012 until Mr Cooke’s appointment in early 2016, will be stepping back into the role while Mr Cooke takes 12 months’ long service and holiday leave from AGL.

He congratulated Mr Cooke on the work he’d carried out this year.

While final costings for the 400kW wind farm can’t be determined until more work is done, Mr Carless told southburnett.com.au it had been estimated the wind farm could cost as much as $800 million.

But it would generate enough clean energy to power more than 190,000 homes annually for the life of the wind farm.

After the meeting closed, guests mingled over a Christmas barbecue.

The next Coopers Gap community consultation meeting will be held at the Cooranga North hall on Thursday, February 9 between 1:00pm-3:00pm.

[UPDATED with correction]

After the meeting, Tim Knill from AGL chatted with South Burnett Regional Council Design and Technical Services Manager James D'Arcy and Corporate Services General Manager Peter O'May

In the tiny hamlet of Cooranga North, the Memorial Hall makes up a third of the town; its other two buildings are the local rural fire brigade's shed and a house

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