Assessing wind farm developments under the EPBCA

The development of wind farms as a renewable energy source has caught the attention of various state governments, which have sought to legislate specifically for their development.75 The question arises whether such developments are assessable under the EPBCA. It is likely that all wind farm developments will be referred under the EPBCA for assessment as they commonly impact on 'matters

73 Ibid Part 8. 74 Ibid Part 5.

75 See for example, Electricity Industry (Wind Farm Development) Act 2004 (Vic), and announcement by NSW

Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources that all large-scale wind farm developments will be declared State significant development and be assessed by the Minister under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW).

of national significance'. These include impacts on listed threatened species, listed migratory species and Ramsar wetlands. Controlled action determinations under the EPBCA are site specific and are unique to each proposal in relation to the siting and numbers of turbines. An assessment of wind farm proposals will include whether they are located in migratory flight paths, are in close proximity to Ramsar wetlands or in the vicinity of listed threatened species or migratory species. The assessment approach required under the EPBCA is unique to each proposal and depends on the level of information provided by the proponent in the preliminary documentation.

Meanwhile, the Australian Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has recently developed its own Wind Farms and Birds: Interim Standards for RiskAssessment.76 The AWEA reports that the Australian wind energy industry is developing rapidly with 5000MW of capacity either already developed, being developed or anticipated by 2010. However, the AWEA acknowledges the following impacts of wind farms on birds: collisions by birds with operating wind turbines, leading to mortality; and disturbance to birds and resulting avoidance of habitats in and near wind farms. Collisions are likely to depend on technology issues such as the type of wind turbine, site characteristics, the risk behaviours of birds and weather conditions.

The AWEA's new recommendations now suggest three levels of assessment for wind farms. These include:

• Level 1 - if an initial assessment determines that the risk to birds is low, or can be reduced to a low level through appropriate mitigation measures, design reviews or siting alteration, no further investigation is recommended. If not, Level 2 investigations are recommended

• Level 2 - investigations must refine the risk assessment done in Level 1 and undertake a more intense assessment of the risks. If the assessment determines that the risk to birds is low, or can be reduced to a low level through appropriate mitigation measures, design reviews or siting alteration, no further investigation is recommended. If not, Level 3 investigations are recommended.

• Level 3 - further investigations of the risk are undertaken.

These investigations will provide: estimates of the level of risk of significant bird impacts; baseline data for use in operational phase monitoring of impacts; and information for use in the design of risk mitigation measures.

Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable.

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