The proponents of a troubled wind farm proposed for the New South Wales Southern Tablelands have withdrawn their application to develop the project, just over two weeks after it was rejected by the state government’s Department of Planning and Environment for a second time.
The Jupiter Wind Farm, proposed for development south-east of Tarago by Australian-Spanish joint venture EPYC, was in late February rejected by the department as “fundamentally unsuitable” to the site and surrounds.
The rejection came despite the proposed project having been downsized by almost half, to a total of 54 turbines, nearly three years after being sent back to the drawing board for the first time.
The case was to go to the Independent Planning Commission for the final determination, but ABC News reported on Monday that EPYC had withdrawn the application.
As we reported last month, the project was originally designed with a capacity of 350MW, or 100 turbines, to be sited on a 12,000 hectare stretch of agricultural land, hosted by 25 different landholders.
But it was never well received by the local community, some of which formed a group – Residents Against Jupiter Wind Turbines – and led public protests against its development.
In notes on its most recent decision, the NSW Department of Planning said it had received 400 objections to the project from the local community and interest groups during the exhibition period.
The failure of EPYC to properly consult and engage with local residents was also cited back in October 2015 by the Department, as well as its failure to adequately assess the visual and noise impacts of the turbines.
This has also been a point of contention within the wind industry’s own ranks, at a time when community engagement and the securing of social licence for large-scale projects is being recognised as crucial to the industry’s success as a whole.
“There are plenty of examples Australia-wide of wind power projects having long-lasting and beneficial impacts for local communities – both financially and socially,” said Australian Wind Alliance national coordinator, Andrew Bray, in comments last month.
“However, it is critical that these projects have effective and transparent community engagement from the start to ensure the project delivers good outcomes for everyone,” he told the Goulburn Post.
“In this instance, that crucial engagement did not happen and this threatened to negatively affect community views not just on this project, but on wind power generally.”
The ABC reported on Monday that locals were “surprised and relieved” that EPYC had withdrawn its application.
“We were surprised because the community has been telling [EPYC] for four years or more that this is an inappropriate area and they had refused to listen to that,” said Residents Against Jupiter Wind Turbines spokesman Michael Crawford.
For its part, EPYC has described being “clearly disappointed” with the latest refusal of planning permission for Jupiter, and said the project’s local supporters had also been disappointed.
“Sadly the prospect for new wind farm development in NSW appears to be extremely limited as the opportunity for proponents to enter the market is hindered by the ongoing changes in requirements,” the company’s business development manager Shahroo Mohajerani said, in a letter to the IPC, this week.