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Friday analysis: Unusual friendships in the wind in Gippsland’s HVP plantations

At long last, the way ahead is clear for the first wind farm to be built in a plantation in Australia.

The Supreme Court in Victoria has ruled the proposed 2000 megawatt Delburn wind farm in the Strzelecki Ranges can go ahead after a community group, Strezlecki Community Alliance, had challenged the approval of the Delburn wind farm, alleging permits breached a local planning requirement not to build wind farm infrastructure within five kilometres of the urban areas of Moe, Morwell and Traralgon.

Supreme Court Justice Melinda Richards found no part of the wind farm was within 5km of the three towns.

“The permits granted by the Minister on 27 March 2022 are not contrary to the five-kilometre prohibition in clause 52.32 of the Latrobe Planning Scheme,” Justice Richards wrote in her decision. “The proceeding must therefore be dismissed.”

Although wind farms have caused controversy across Australia for some time because of concerns over bird strikes, noise and visual pollution, the win for the Delburn project is a victory for logic.

Overlooking the site of the dismantled Hazelwood Power Station, the Delburn wind farm project will be on plantation land in the Delburn area covering the HVP Plantations’ Thorpdale tree farm.

OSMI Australia, which is behind the project says the Delburn Wind Farm will provide more than 186 full time jobs during construction and 24 ongoing jobs during its 30-year operational life.

The 33 towers will be 160 metres high with the blades spanning 90 metres in length which will generate 200 megawatts of power.

What was particularly surprising was the response from the Friends of the Earth.

The Friends of the Earth said building a wind farm in a plantation site was an effective way to protect the natural environment as the plantation is already a highly modified industrial site.

“Our energy system is changing, the Latrobe Valley has a proud history of energy production, and it is great to see that the Valley will continue to play a part in Victoria’s energy production” said Wendy Farmer, Latrobe Valley resident and community organiser for Friends of the Earth Melbourne.

Now that was a surprise.

Maybe, just maybe, the Friends of the Earth might come around to supporting the timber industry as a whole in the name of carbon capture and responsible environmental management.

Probably not.