South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell and Economic Development Manager Phil Harding caught up with AGL’s Kathryn Lamond at the meeting; the two men were assessing possible economic and tourism benefits AGL’s wind farm proposal could bring to the South Burnett

June 30, 2016

AGL will sponsor a four-day tour in August of its Macarthur and Oaklands Hill wind farms in Victoria for 30 locals who live near the site of its proposed Coopers Gap wind farm.

The tour will allow residents to see what large working wind farms look like and talk with people who live nearby about their experience of living next to them, as well as wind farm workers who work in them every day.

The announcement was made on Thursday at a Community Consultative Committee (CCC) meeting held at the Bunya Bell Community Centre in Bell.

The meeting, which CCC members described as the best-attended they’d ever had, was held in front of about 50 people.

The company’s proposal to build a 350kW wind farm at Coopers Gap was declared a Coordinated Project by the Department of State Development on June 7.

One of the key aims of the meeting was to update residents about what this meant for the company’s plans.

Neil Cooke, AGL’s Manager Project Development, said the Coordinated Project declaration meant AGL had to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as one of the requirements for the wind farm in order for construction to proceed.

Matters the EIS would address include noise levels, flicker, any effects on endangered species and similar issues.

A Terms Of Reference, which will inform the EIS, is now open for public submissions until July 11.

After the period for public submissions closed, the Office of the Co-ordinator-General would then put them through an assessment process to determine what matters should be covered by the EIS.

A draft of the final Terms Of Reference would then be released in late July or early August for further public input, after which a final EIS would be prepared – probably in September.

Mr Cooke told the meeting the State Government would be deciding what matters AGL would need to address, so if anyone had concerns it was in their interest to make a submission to the Terms Of Reference within the deadlines the Government set.

The meeting was also told that AGL are in the process of preparing tender documents for the wind farm, and recently reached an agreement with Powerlink to locate a 275kV power cable near the junction of Niagra Road and the Bunya Highway.

The cable would carry power from the wind farm into the energy grid if project construction is approved.

The company has recently begun monitoring existing background noise levels at a dozen sites around the Coopers Gap area so noise benchmarks can be prepared to test the wind farm against in future.

Mr Cooke said AGL had collected similar data several years ago but the standards had since been upgraded, so the company was re-running the study to conform with current rules.

The company will also be doing “facade testing” on houses near the Coopers Gap site next month to determine noise transmission levels between the outside and inside of houses built of different materials such as fibro, brick, timber and metal sheeting.

During the course of the two-hour meeting the audience was invited to ask questions about anything that was being discussed.

Several raised concerns about noise levels near the wind farm and the possible effects that infrasound (low-level sound) might have on their health.

Others asked questions about the height of wind turbines, their expected working lifespan, what procedures would be used when they were decommissioned, how flicker from the turbine blades would be monitored, how turbine fires would be handled and what would happen if the wind farm – once built – failed to meet its environmental standards.

Mr Cooke and other AGL representatives at the meeting answered all questions or, where they didn’t have the latest data, took them under advisement and promised to get back with the answer at the next CCC meeting.

After the meeting broke up, Mr Cooke told he was pleased with the day’s proceedings.

“I think it’s very important that groups like the CCC have as much diversity of opinion as possible,” he said.

“If someone raises a concern, you can be sure there are half a dozen people in the community who share it.

“But it’s good to be able to put these things on the table and get them answered, and I hope a lot of questions were answered today.”

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