State launches island wind farm plan
ELECTRICITY from the southern hemisphere's largest wind farm, on King Island, would be brought ashore near Geelong in a $2 billion proposal unveiled by Hydro Tasmania.
A $900 million undersea cable linking the island to the mainland grid would be key to the project, according to Hydro, which wants to build 200 turbines on the Bass Strait island.
For the 600-megawatt TasWind project to get off the ground, strong community backing on the island will be necessary, Hydro chairman David Crean said on Wednesday.
Despite a protracted battle in Gippsland in the 1990s over the pioneering Basslink cable to Tasmania, Hydro chief executive Roy Adair said he did not expect any planning issues where the TasWind cable crosses the coast in Victoria. ''We are looking into … three possibilities in the approximate vicinity of Geelong,'' Mr Adair said. He declined to be more specific.
The wind farm's footprint would cover up to 15 per cent of the 1098-square-kilometre King Island, which is buffeted by the roaring forties. A public meeting gave general support on Tuesday night, and mayor Greg Barratt said the project ''ticks all the boxes'' for the island's economy.
The plan revives controversy over the critically endangered orange bellied parrot. Its disputed presence led to the blocking of the south-east Victorian Bald Hills wind farm by the Howard government in 2005.
BirdLife Tasmania convener Eric Woehler said the parrot used King Island as a staging post on its annual Bass Strait migration. ''With as few as 30 to 50 orange bellied parrots left in the wild, each one killed by a turbine would represent at least 2 per cent of the entire wild population,'' he said.
Dr Crean said environmental issues to do with birds would all be assessed in detail.
Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings said nothing would be done to water down environmental requirements, and the project has initial backing from the state's Liberals and Greens.
The 420-megawatt Macarthur wind farm in the final stages of construction in western Victoria is currently the largest wind farm in Australia.