24 May 2024

Tumut's Bondo State Forest makes Forestry Corporation's shortlist as potential wind farm site

| Edwina Mason
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Bondo Wind Farm map

The area being investigated is within Forestry Corporation’s softwood plantations near Bondo, about 20 km east of Tumut. Image: Bondo Wind Farm.

Bondo State Forest, east of Tumut, has been selected among a handful of public pine plantations in NSW for exploration potential as a wind farm, Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) announced yesterday (23 May).

FCNSW CEO Anshul Chaudhary has announced that the Neoen, Iberdrola Australia, TagEnergy and Mainstream Renewables Power and Someva Renewables joint venture had been awarded permits to investigate wind farm opportunities at Bondo as well as Orange, Black Springs and Sunny Corner, in the state’s Central West, to contribute to the NSW transition to renewable energy.

The news follows the June 2022 announcement by FCNSW it was formally calling for expressions of interest to develop renewable energy generation and storage in five of the state’s plantations including another at Laurel Hill, between Tumut and Tumbarumba.

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The four pine plantation sites announced have been considered for wind turbine projects because of existing infrastructure, such as roads and powerlines, and are often located some distance from neighbouring residential estates.

Native forests are not included in these project areas.

“Today’s announcement marks the start of the investigation phase under what will be a comprehensive and considered planning process,” Mr Chaudhary said.

“A permit is not a consent to proceed with a project, but it will allow the proponent to start the detailed studies to see if a project is viable within each investigation permit area,” he said.

Mr Chaudhary said each company would be required to conduct detailed wind farm feasibility studies, which would commence with the installation of wind and weather monitoring equipment on meteorological masts.

“Each company will also undertake extensive community consultation and work with local communities to consider and address potential concerns around environmental impact, noise, landscape and visual impacts, traffic and transport issues, hazard and risks, heritage, water and soil impacts and waste management,” he said.

Once this work was completed the companies would submit the projects for consideration by the State Government and if approved, Forestry Corporation would issue a construction and operations permit.

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The combined investigation, consultation, planning and approval stages could be expected to take between three and six years.

Any approved development would be unlikely to be in operation until the early 2030s.

“The proponents have demonstrated a strong commitment to build long-term relationships with the local communities and stakeholders, First Nations groups and the local government,” Mr Chaudhary said.

In 2021 NSW Parliament passed changes to the Forestry Act 2012 which allowed renewable energy projects to be considered in softwood plantations.

Wind farms operate in forests in Canada, Germany, Sweden, Wales, Scotland and Ireland and similar proposals are being considered for plantations in Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.

“Wind farms can co-exist with plantation forests without having any long-term impact on tree growth or plantation operations, as the wind turbines are situated well above the top of the trees,” Mr Chaudhary said.

“Pine plantations are large areas often in windy locations, with access to powerlines, and a good existing road network,” Mr Chaudhary said.

“Each project will have a community benefit fund equivalent to a value per megawatt of installed capacity, delivering direct benefit back to impacted residents and the broader community,” he said.

The investigation area falls within the boundaries of Snowy Valleys, Cootamundra-Gundagai and Yass Valley local government areas.

People wishing to learn more should visit the Bondo Wind Farm website.

Original Article published by Edwina Mason on About Regional.

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