Community continues offshore wind pushback with public meeting

Tea Gardens’ Bruce Murray cited several international examples of wind farm performances. Photo: Phillip Craig Photography.

THE battle to prevent offshore wind farms blew up a gale at the Birubi Point SLSC, headed by the ‘No Wind Farm Port Stephens’ anti-offshore wind-farm group, hosting several speakers in a crowded room on Sunday 23 June.

Speakers included bird enthusiast Rory Milne, Tea Gardens’ Bruce Murray, Nationals Senator Ross Cadell, Newcastle Port Stephens Game Fish President Troy Radford, and Member for Port Stephens Kate Washington.

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Mr Murray spoke to concerns over the cost, reliability and potential generation capacity of an offshore wind farm off the Hunter coast, comparing that which is proposed to existing international examples.

“The potential power generation of the Hunter offshore wind-farm (declared zone) is stated as 5.2 gigawatts (GW), but that is really a peak, not an average, and certainly does not count down-time during low winds and maintenance,” Mr Murray told NOTA.

“Eraring (coal-fired) Power Station has a combined capacity of 2.88GW, while existing wind farms in Scotland put out only a fraction of that, and require heavy maintenance well short of their intended lifespans.

“The risks far outweigh any ecological gains, including 1,854 square kilometres of pristine ocean habitat, a host of avian and marine species, including the Gould’s Petrel, the East Coast whale migration, and thousands of jobs lost in the local fishing and tourism industries.”

Perceived risks mentioned included the presence of large concrete submersible turbine bases, fan diameters well over 100 metres, kilometres of cabling to bring the electricity onshore, and the requisite presence of offshore substations.

“Existing floating wind projects are tiny, compared to the Hunter proposal, and don’t have offshore substations, which will be essential with the sheer scale of the Illawarra and Hunter proposals,” Mr Murray added.

Most speakers suggested the Federal Government had spread misinformation regarding the potential generation capacity of offshore wind projects off the Hunter coast.

Member for Port Stephens Kate Washington said the offshore wind proposal had been a “challenging issue for our community”.

“I’ve heard from many people about their concerns and [from] many others about the opportunity the project presents.

“I’ve met with commercial fishers, recreational fishers, our local tourism operators and environmentalists, and have also raised local concerns in the NSW Parliament and in the media, and shared them with Federal Minister for Energy, Chris Bowen, because – as everyone knows – the project is a proposal of the Commonwealth Government.

“If the enviro-assessments determine that the project would cause even half of the harm to wildlife that people are suggesting, they could not possibly be approved,” said Ms Washington, citing a project in Gippsland which the Commonwealth Government stopped due to unacceptable environmental impacts.

The meeting came days after an announcement from Federal Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen that a feasibility licence had been offered to a proponent for the southern end of the declared Hunter offshore wind zone.

Equinor and Oceanex will now investigate the feasibility of their potential Novocastrian Wind Pty Ltd project, which they estimate could generate up to two GW of electricity.

“Importantly, in response to community concerns, the site has been pushed south and is largely no longer off the coast of Port Stephens, and no-longer near the Myall Coast, which shows that the Commonwealth Government heard our community’s concerns and responded,” Ms Washington said of the project’s potential placement.

By Thomas O’KEEFE

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