In brief - NSW government aims for more clarity around wind
farm development process
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment is now
considering the public submissions it has received on its newly
Wind Energy Planning Framework, which will underpin the future
strategic policy for wind farm developments in NSW.
Wind energy investment needs to be balanced with community
The recent debate over wind farms has led to inertia on the
development of wind farms in NSW. In particular, the uncertainty
and delay in obtaining approvals or modifications to approvals has
impacted on wind farm investment in NSW when compared to other
states in Australia. This is despite the 2011
Draft Planning Guidelines for Wind Farms.
The stated intent behind the Framework is to balance investment
in wind energy with the needs of the community.
Approval regime includes considering capital investment value
of State Significant Development wind farm projects
In NSW a tiered approvals regime for renewable energy projects
exists to ensure that the level of assessment is appropriately
tailored to the scale and type of the project. The Framework's
Assessment Policy provides the following table as a general
overview of wind energy project categories and the assessment
As a general rule, wind farm developments are assessed as State
Significant Developments (SSD) where the proposed farm has:
a capital investment value (CIV) of $30 million or more,
a CIV of $10 million where proposed in an environmentally
However, it is technically possible for a wind farm project to
be assessed as local, regional and designated development, which
would involve assessment and consent by councils or Joint Regional
Planning Panels, depending on the category of development.
The Framework deals only with wind farm developments that fall
within the definition of SSD under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. In
other words, it will not apply to projects that have lower CIVs
than what is mentioned above.
Framework includes technical noise, visual impact and
The Framework has been put forward to address delays in the
assessment and determination of applications that have been
identified for wind farm projects. It includes:
An overarching Assessment Policy: this
provides guidance on the planning framework for the assessment of
large-scale wind farms and emphasises a front-end approach to
A technical Noise Assessment Bulletin: this
provides guidance on how to measure and assess environmental noise
impacts from wind farms.
A technical Visual Impact Assessment Bulletin:
this provides guidance on the principles applied in the siting and
visual assessment of wind farms.
Standard Secretary's Environmental Assessment
Requirements: these provide a template set of requirements
that any wind farm project that is SSD will need to meet.
Consistent with the Environmental Planning and Assessment
Act, the Assessment Policy contemplates the submission of an
environmental impact statement (EIS) by the applicant, and public
exhibition of the EIS for a minimum of 30 days. The applicant is
then afforded the chance to respond to submissions prior to the
application being determined.
Significantly, the Framework also removes the requirement for a
minimum buffer zone between adjacent sensitive uses. Negotiated
agreements with neighbouring parcels are instead considered the
preferred mechanism for dealing with impacts. The Bulletins also
contain mitigation requirements based on the number of turbines and
their proximity to a sensitive land use.
Wind Energy Planning Framework's implementation and
It is intended that the Department of Planning and Environment
will provide an updated Framework and possible draft amendments to
the planning legislation to give effect to the Framework in early
If finalised, the Framework will provide better clarity for
proponents and the community about what is required for the
development of any SSD wind farm, and when and how they might be
The shift from buffer zones to private market negotiations will
require more extensive community engagement and the preparation of
agreements addressing the concerns of relevant neighbours.
Most issues apply to all sectors, but this paper will only focus on the use of EPC contracts in the wind power sector.
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