Residents of Beetaloo Valley have taken their fight against the development of 50 wind turbines in the Flinders Ranges Landscape Protection Zone to the highest levels of government.
A delegation of residents raised their concerns with South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis and Planning Department chief executive Michael Deegan as part of the recent Country Cabinet visit to the region.
Local teacher and Beetaloo Valley resident Mr Chris Stroud said the group received a positive hearing, with both the Premier and Energy Minister acknowledging there were some landscapes in which windfarms were not appropriate.
“Both Mr Weatherill and Mr Koustantonis acknowledged the stunning landscape of the Flinders Ranges and stated publicly that you can support renewable energy and windfarms, but that they shouldn’t be ‘everywhere’.”
“We are concerned that if this development is approved, it then opens up the whole of the Flinders Ranges zone, which extends from Crystal Brook to Hawker.”
In their discussions with senior politicians, residents also expressed disappointment that the government is continuing to support more windfarms, rather than new technology with wide community support, like solar thermal. “Representatives from Neoen advised us in February that they are receiving state government support, including sponsorship of the project through the Development Assessment Commission, which bypasses local councils”, explained Mr Stroud.
“Given the divisive nature of windfarm developments in rural communities and ongoing issues around electricity in this state, it makes no sense to us that the government is continuing to actively support new windfarms in South Australia”.
“We would much rather see taxpayer-funded time and resources invested into new technologies. The Port Augusta community, for example, has been actively campaigning for many years to bring a solar thermal power plant to replace the coal-fired generator that shut down last year.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure said crown sponsorship was provided by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet on February 6, 2017, with the next step in the process the lodgement by Neoen of a development application, in accordance with Section 49 of the Development Act 1993.
“Whilst such an application has yet to be formally lodged, it would need to address a range of issues, including the potential effect on the neighbouring land uses,” the spokesperson said.
The proposal represents a $500m investment that could create 150 jobs during construction and 20 ongoing positions during operation.