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Wind farm twist

Friday, 9th December, 2011

AGL eyes project

By Craig Brealey

 Australia’s largest renewable energy company is looking to take over the Silverton wind farm project, and its interest has been welcomed even by some of the town’s residents who were opposed to the proposal.

The company, AGL, reportedly told them this week that the project would comprise 80 to 100 turbines, not the 280-odd that Epuron had stated it would build on the Barrier Ranges.

AGL sent three representatives to Silverton on Tuesday to meet the locals who had lodged submissions against Epuron’s plan.

Then on Wednesday night a representative of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage held a public meeting at the Municipal Chambers which was attended by most of the people in town.

Meetings were also held with City Council in Broken Hill.

AGL’s Head of Generation Development, Merchant Energy, Nigel Bean, met in private with five townsfolk to hear their concerns.

Much has been written about the jobs and business the wind farm would bring to Broken Hill but they had sent submissions to Epuron setting out their worries about how the building of the gigantic turbines might damage the range, the creeks and the reservoirs.

Each of the bases for the turbines would comprise of 240 cubic metres of concrete which would require a great deal of sand and water.

The concern was that the sand would be taken from the creek beds and the water from the Umberumberka and Stephens Creek reservoirs. 

If another drought struck and the Darling River ran dry as it had in 2003-04, then Broken Hill and Silverton might not have the reservoirs as a back-up supply.

Dirt being dug up for the trenches and the roads that will have to be built would be washed down the hills into the creeks and gullies, they said, and this would create a build-up of silt in the reservoirs.

They were also concerned that the big, low loaders carrying the heavy machinery and parts for the turbines would clog up the Silverton road and ruin Silverton’s tourist industry.

Silverton local Helen Murray told the BDT that Mr Bean had informed them that if AGL took over from Epuron it would run the whole project but build far fewer turbines.

Mrs Murray said they were told the turbines cost $3 million each and that a line would have to be built to join the Silverton project to the Red Cliffs line at a cost of $3 million per kilometre.

“(AGL) did help to alleviate our concerns,” she said, “They listened, seemed genuinely interested and said they were willing to negotiate and do everything they could to help.

“It was a bit more positive, but it does seem a shame to build this in such a  beautiful area.”

However, it might not be as bad if only 80 to 100 turbines were erected, Mrs Murray said, because AGL had said it could space them wide apart to reduce their impact on the town.

Artist Albert Woodroffe, who owns a gallery in Silverton, had put in a submission and was among the citizens who met the AGL representatives.

Mr Woodroffe said that Mr Bean had all the facts and figures at hand and presented his case very well.

But he said he was surprised to learn that Epuron was not going to build the wind farm and that its job was to do the preliminary work and then hand it on.

“We thought Epuron were the builders but they said that Epuron’s job was to find the resource, get planning approval from the government and sell it off.”

Comment was sought from AGL and Epuron yesterday.

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