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Gone with the wind?

Thursday, 11th July, 2013

By By Kurtis J Eichler

Energy giant AGL’s proposed $500 million Silverton Wind Farm project has been mothballed, with the company saying it will review the project next year.


Head of Power Development for AGL, Nigel Bean, broke the shock news to a small band of Silverton Wind Farm Community Consultative Committee members yesterday at a meeting in the town.


It’s understood all the committee members were invited to attend what was billed as an “emergency meeting”.


Mr Bean said after much “soul searching” the company had decided to “delay and defer” the project and would review it in 2014.
He cited uncertainty about the looming federal election, renewable energy regulation and Coalition policies as reasons for the delay.
AGL was set to start work on the big-ticket project in March with a number of key decisions already made.
“We were looking at short-listing construction contractors with the view of going ahead and trying to make an investment of $500 million by the end of this calendar year,” Mr Bean said.
“With the increasing uncertainty around renewable regulation we don’t see that we’ll be in a position to make that commitment.”
Mr Bean said neither PM Kevin Rudd or Opposition leader Tony Abbott had made their stance on renewable energy clear.
“Nobody has stepped out and made some clear announcement on policy so it doesn’t matter how the election turns out - we have uncertainty.”
This year the government released its review into the Renewable Energy Target with a recommendation by the Climate Change Authority to cut it back.
“That recommendation was not taken up and so that means there will another review of the Renewable Energy Target in 2014.
“We are looking to make an investment and the climate is a fairly difficult one.
“Making that $500 million investment at a point where it’s not clear what the rules are going to be, makes it difficult for us.”
Mr Bean said AGL could hardly select a contractor before they had made any sort of financial commitment.
“We want to move forward with this development,” he said.
“It’s a good quality development and we’ve put a lot of money into it so we want to see it ultimately built.
AGL will now ask the Department of Planning to extend the licence it applied for to build the 75 to 100 turbines in the ranges near Silverton.
But Mr Bean said it was ultimately the department’s decision but the company was still committed to the project and would put a good case forward.
“The case is that it’s not at a point where AGL or, we think, anyone else would make way for such a sizeable project at this point in time.
“It’s a project for us that is a very good project in terms of its wind resource and its location in NSW.”
Mr Bean said it was important the community was told about the decision “face to face” before it was made public.
He was accompanied at the meeting by AGL’s manager of project development Neil Cooke and company spokesman Nicole Rizgalla.
Mr Bean said the Broken Hill Solar Plant would not be affected by the decision.

Mixed feelings in Silverton, Page 2

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