There are clearly various perspectives on this issue. Tasmanian Times welcomes other interested parties to submit their point of view as either a well-argued article or a letter to the Editor. This post is published with permission from the Nietta Action Group.
Wind farms are electricity generators and cannot operate in the absence of transmission lines that link them into the electricity grid. How can a development application for a wind farm be reasonably considered in the absence of a critical piece of infrastructure?
One key demand of Nietta Action Group’s (NAG) representation to the Circular Head Council in relation to the UPC Renewables Australia (UPC) Development Application (DA) for Jim’s Plain Renewable Energy Park is that any approval of the Park be conditional on approval of the off-site high-voltage overhead transmission line (HVOTL), which is fundamental to the project’s delivery but does not form part of the DA.
We argued that it is absolutely critical to the integrity and objectivity of the assessment process that the Jim’s Plain proposal be conditional and contingent upon the approval of the HVOTL required to connect the generator to the network.
We noted that the overhead transmission line infrastructure, which links the generator at Jim’s Plain to the Tasmanian high-voltage electricity network, did not form part of the development application (Section 2.11 of the DA). We argued that the HVOTL is a fundamental and integral part of this project. It is, in fact, an essential infrastructure component because in its absence, the Energy Park cannot operate. In its absence, the project cannot realise its intended outcomes as UPC cannot bring the generated electricity to market.
The planned HVOTL is comprised of two sections:
• the western section from Jim’s Plain to Hampshire will be designed, built and operated by UPC;
• the eastern section, from Hampshire to Staverton (Sheffield) will be designed, built and operated by TasNetworks but funded by UPC, under a cooperation deed signed in July 2019.
The new HVOTL would cut a swathe across the precious north-west Tasmanian rural landscape and transform our precious scenery—including the Leven Valley and foothills of Black Bluff at Loongana—and cause extensive environmental impacts.
Both HVOTL sections will require referral under the EPBC Act (1999) and such referrals have not as yet been made. Section 2.11 of the DA states that the EPBC referral of the UPC-owned HVOTL section would be forthcoming by late 2019. We note that this has not occurred, and an updated submission date has not been provided.
Conditionality of approval of the Jim’s Plain Energy Park needs to apply to both HVOTL sections, the UPC and the TasNetworks-owned sections.
Conditionality of approval of Jim’s Plain Energy Park is necessary to ensure that an assessment of the HVOTL development application(s) is made on merit and is not unduly influenced by a pre-existing windfarm development unable to get its product (i.e. electricity) to market.
It is our opinion that unconditional approval for Jim’s Plain Energy Park would unduly demand that the HVOTL be approved as a ‘matter of course’ for financial necessity of the proponent. It risks exposing the assessment process to political pressure and a subversion of procedural rigour.