Wind energy and high voltage power lines

 Moyne Shire is the major location for wind farm development in Victoria. This is due to the strong and steady winds, low population density and the location of electricity infrastructure such as large transmission lines and terminal stations.

Wind turbines operate on a simple principle. The energy in the wind turns propeller-like blades on a rotor. The rotor connects to the main shaft, which spins a generator to create electricity.  

Council has revised its position on wind farm development in the Shire. Council strongly recommends that the State Government pause the issuing of all wind farm planning permits in the Shire until strategic land use planning in the South West Renewable Energy Zone is completed in consutation with Moyne Shire and other affected Councils and communities.

Further information about wind energy can be found here

Wind farm projects

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Wind farm planning and development

The Victorian Minister for Planning issues planning permits for wind energy facilities, more commonly known as wind farms. Permit applications are assessed using the Policy and Planning Guidelines for the Development of Wind Energy Facilities in Victoria 

Once a permit is granted the developer is required to prepare a range of plans which the Minister will endorse as part of the permit. Plans are required for managing possible impacts such as traffic, road damage, noise, shadow & flicker, television reception, environmental impacts, including soil, water, native vegetation, flora and fauna. Each wind farm is also required to have a complaints management process and register and an emergency response plan.

When the Minister has endorsed all required plans, the developer can start construction of the wind farm. Construction can take up to 2 years. A project typically includes a series of wind turbines, one or more substations, a temporary construction compound, wind monitoring equipment, access tracks, underground cabling connecting the turbines to the onsite substations and a high voltage power line connecting the wind farm to the electricity grid. A larger facility may also include a quarry, concrete batching plants during construction, and an operations and maintenance facility.

When construction is complete, the wind farm can commence operation when it is given approval from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). The wind farm can operate for around 25 years before it is decommissioned or reconditioned.

DELWP Wind Farm Planning

High voltage power lines

Wind and solar farms in Moyne Shire require new high voltage power lines to connect to the existing electricity network. These lines transfer high voltage electricity from the energy generation facilities to the existing network via substations or terminal stations that step down the electricity into lower voltage levels for everyday use. The siting and construction of these lines can have impacts on the environment and community.  Developers and contractors involved in building new power lines should engage with communities throughout the design and construction process.

Most high voltage power lines are constructed overhead with conductors supported on steel towers. High voltage power lines can be placed underground; however, this is more costly. Moyne Shire Council’s current position is to encourage all wind farm developers to place power lines underground where possible or to share power lines with other wind farm projects. 

Under the Planning and Environment Act 1987, a planning permit is required for power lines and substations to connect an energy generator to the existing electricity network. This only applies to new generators and does not apply to generators that already had planning approval on or before 15 March 2019. In addition, a planning permit may be required for associated works such as removal of native vegetation or altering access to a major road. Other approvals may also be necessary under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 or the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.

Wind Farms - Frequently Asked Questions

Planning Approvals

Who approves a wind farm to be built?

The Victorian Minister for Planning issues planning permits for the use and development of land for a wind energy facility under the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

Once a permit is granted the developer is required to prepare a range of plans which the Minister will endorse as part of the permit. Plans are required for managing possible impacts such as traffic, road damage, noise, shadow & flicker, television reception, environmental impacts, including soil, water, native vegetation, flora and fauna. Each wind farm is also required to have a complaints management process and register and an emergency response plan.

When the Minister has endorsed all required plans, the developer can start construction of the wind farm.

*Before 2013 permits for wind farms under 30 megawatts were issued by Moyne Shire Council.

Who approves a high voltage powerline that is built as part of a wind farm? A planning permit is required for power lines and substations to connect an energy generator (including a wind farm) to the existing electricity network.

This permit is issued by the Victorian Minister for Planning under the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

This only applies to new generators and does not apply to generators that already had planning approval on or before 15 March 2019. In addition, a planning permit may be required for associated works such as removal of native vegetation or altering access to a major road. Other approvals may also be necessary under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 or the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.

Who makes sure the wind farm company is adhering to the conditions on their planning permit?

Moyne Shire Council is the Responsible Authority for ensuring wind farm developers and operators comply with their planning permit conditions. Council’s Energy Projects Compliance Officer works pro-actively and re-actively (complaints and investigations) ensuring wind farms are meeting their obligations under the planning permit.

What happens if a wind farm company is not complying with these conditions?

When Council identifies non-compliance, it will work with the wind farm company to rectify any problems identified. For the most serious non-compliance breaches, enforcement action is available which includes a ladder of options starting with formal warnings, then fines, VCAT enforcement orders and /or Court prosecution.

Development near a Wind Farm

Can I build or extend a house if the site is within 1 kilometre of the boundary of a wind farm?

In October 2021 a new permit requirement was introduced into the Farming Zones of all Victorian Planning Schemes. A planning permit is now required to use land for a dwelling, bed and breakfast, dependent person’s unit and rural worker accommodation located within one kilometre from the nearest title boundary of a wind farm that has a planning permit, has applied for a planning permit or is undertaking environmental studies under the Environmental Effects Act 1978. This changes the “as of right” uses in the Farming Zone.

Similarly, there is also now a new planning permit trigger should you wish to extend or add to a dwelling, bed and breakfast, dependent persons unit or rural worker accommodation, if the existing building is within 1 kilometre of the boundary of a wind farm as outlined above.

If a planning permit is required under this new 1 kilometre rule, notice of the planning permit application must be given to adjoining and adjacent property owners. Such notice allows a person to object to an application.

This is the process that a wind farm proponent or operator could use to object to a proposed dwelling or accommodation, if it has concerns with the proximity of the building to the wind farm.

In assessing the planning permit application, Council will consider the impacts of being sited close to the wind farm. The principles of decision making for planning have always been that you can apply for a permit but that this does not guarantee the issue of a permit.

Can I build a house or shed if the site is more than 1 kilometre from the boundary of a wind farm?

Generally, in the farming zone, a planning permit is only required for a dwelling, farm building or shed where the land has an area less than 40 hectares, or if it does not meet prescribed setbacks being 20 metres from the boundary to a local road, 5 metres from any other boundary, 100 metres from a dwelling not in the same ownership, or 100 metres from a designated waterway.

If all of the criteria above are met and the site is more than 1 kilometre from the boundary of a wind farm, then a planning permit is not required. There is no process for a wind farm proponent to object to a building permit application.

Complaints

How do I make a complaint about a wind farm?

Complaints should first be made to the wind farm developer or operator. Each wind farm has a website where you can find details about their complaints handling processes and a toll free telephone number.

If your complaint is not resolved with the operator you can lodge your complaint at one of the following places, depending of the nature of your complaint:

Turbine noise complaints can be made directly to the Environment Protection Authority pollution hotline on 1300 372 842 or via the EPA website

Planning permit condition related complaints can be lodged with Moyne Shire Council using the online form on our website or contacting 1300 656 564

Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner also takes complaints on the AEIC website or by calling 1800 656 395

Noise

The operating wind farm is noisy, who do I complain to?

Every noise complaint must go direct to the wind farm operator in the first instance. Each wind farm has a website where you can find details about their complaints handling processes and a toll free telephone number.

If your complaint is not resolved by the wind farm you can then lodge your complaint with the Environment Protection Authority pollution hotline on 1300 372 842 or via the EPA website

Roads and Traffic

The construction of a wind farm creates a significant increase in heavy and light vehicles using local and regional roads, particularly during the civil earthworks stage, which involves building the internal access tracks and turbine hardstand areas.

How is increased traffic from wind farm construction managed?

A wind farm permit will contain a condition(s) that requires the wind farm proponent to prepare a Traffic Management Plan (TMP) prior to the commencement of construction, usually in consultation with the local Council and Regional Roads Victoria (RRV – formerly VicRoads). Before construction commences, the TMP must be endorsed by the Minister for Planning.

Some of the key elements a TMP must include are:

  • The predicted number and type of vehicles that the construction period will generate;
  • Nominated routes and access point(s) for construction traffic to enter and exit the site, and the daily hours of construction;
  • Recommendations regarding the need for road and intersection upgrades to accommodate construction traffic, including over-dimensional loads for the delivery of turbine components;
  • Measures to avoid interaction between construction traffic and school buses;
  • Measures to ensure construction vehicles are easily identifiable.

How are local roads kept in good condition and repaired during the construction of a wind farm?

A Traffic Management Plan will include measures to manage any construction traffic impacts on the condition of local roads. The proponent is required to appoint an independent road engineer to carry out condition surveys of any local roads to be used, both before and after construction, and at regular intervals during construction.

During construction, the proponent is required to repair any damage caused to those roads at their own cost and within timeframes as agreed with Council. After construction is completed, the proponent is required to ensure that the condition of the relevant local roads is equivalent to or better that the condition those roads were in prior to construction.

Birds and Bats

How do wind farms minimise impact on birds and bats?

To help manage this environmental risk most wind farm planning permits include a condition that requires the developer to prepare and implement a Bat and Avifauna (bird) Management Plan (BAM Plan), in consultation with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

Before the wind farm starts to operate, the BAM Plan must be endorsed by the Minister for Planning.

A BAM Plan contains the items set out in the permit condition. This varies between permits but usually includes:

  • objectives and strategies for managing and mitigating any significant native bird and bat strike impacts;
  • a bat and bird monitoring program which includes regular searches for carcasses and injured birds near turbines and may include specific monitoring of vulnerable species;
  • procedures for reporting native bird and bat strikes to the Council and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP);
  • procedures for regular removal of dead animals (carrion) likely to attract raptors (e.g. eagles, falcons) near turbines;
  • procedures to mitigate and offset any significant impacts detected through the monitoring program.

How are the impacts on birds and bats monitored and for how long?

A BAM plan outlines the specific ways that threatened and non-threatened bird and bat species are monitored. The wind farm operator carries out monitoring using qualified ecologists and trained staff.

Surveys of the most “at risk” species are conducted. The timing, frequency and methods of these surveys is developed in consultation with DELWP to ensure they are rigorous and specific to the type of bird or bat. Some significant species that occur in Moyne Shire include Brolgas and the Southern Bent Wing Bat, however these do not occur in the vicinity of all wind farms.

Monitoring also includes systematic searches for bird and bat carcasses around turbines coupled with scavenger trials used to determine the number of carcasses that may have been removed by predators (e.g. foxes).

Post construction bird and bat utilisation surveys and carcass searches take place for at least 2 years after operation of the wind farm commences, and often longer depending on the requirements of the planning permit. Carrion removal is usually carried out for the duration of the wind farm.

How are impacts on birds and bats reduced?

A range of actions can be put in place by wind farm operators and host land holders to reduce the impact of turbines on birds and bats. These may include:

  • Locating turbines away from known habitat or flight paths
  • Removing any dead animals (carrion) that may attract birds to the wind farm
  • Reducing lighting on turbines and buildings that may attract insects and the birds and bats that feed on them
  • Curtailment of turbine operation during high risk periods for a specific threatened species. For example, bats may leave roost caves and fly through a wind farm at dusk and they may be more active at low wind speeds
  • Acoustic or electromagnetic deterrence can be used to reduce bird and bat use of a specific area
  • Farming practices can be modified to deter birds from feeding in high risk areas e.g. relocating where stock are fed grain or not lambing in paddocks with turbines.
  • Measures to offset any significant impacts are expected. This could include the protection and restoration of the species’ habitat at another location or contribution to research program the will build understanding about conservation of the species.

What happens if monitoring shows a significant impact?

What constitutes a significant impact is defined in each BAM Plan. The death or injury of a threatened species listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act or on the Victorian Advisory List is deemed to be significant.

Significant impact levels for non- threatened species may also be included e.g. if the site is known to be used by a significant number of Wedge-tailed eagles.

Each BAM Plan outlines a procedure to follow if a significant impact occurs. The wind farm operator will report the impact to the Council and DELWP and further investigations will be conducted.

Depending on the results of the investigations, a mitigation and/or offset plan will be developed, implemented and monitored. This plan will reduce the future impact on the species at the site and may include measures to increase the population of the species elsewhere through habitat conservation.

Who is responsible for ensuring the BAM Plan is implemented and enforced? The wind farm operator is responsible for implementing the BAM plan. Councils are the Responsible Authority for enforcement of the plan once it is endorsed under the planning permit. Moyne Shire Council and DELWP receive and review the notifications and monitoring reports required under the permit.

The BAM plan is required to be prepared in consultation with and to the satisfaction of DELWP, which has technical expertise in relation to bats and avifauna. Therefore Council seeks DELWPs expert advice when assessing any BAM Plan reports.

The community can generally view the endorsed BAM plans and the final monitoring reports on the wind farm company’s website.

 

Environment

How are wind farm environmental impacts managed?

Wind farm planning permits require the permit holder to prepare an environmental management plan (EMP) before construction begins. The EMP typically focuses on:

  • Construction and worksite management
  • Sediment, erosion and water quality
  • Blasting
  • Hazardous substances
  • Bushfire prevention and emergency response
  • Biosecurity including pest plants and animals
  • Vegetation management
  • Lighting
  • Training
  • Auditing and reporting

The wind farm developer or operator monitors environmental conditions on site and regularly reviews the EMP. According to the details in the EMP, companies will report incidents to Council and other responsible authority. The EMP is generally published on the wind farms website for community viewing.

Weeds

How do wind farms control the spread of weeds?

As a condition on the wind farm planning permit, a management plan for controlling weeds has to be prepared before construction can begin. This forms part of the wind farm’s Environmental Management Plan (EMP). Typically, the plan will require an assessment of weeds on site before and after construction; construction and operational practices that reduce the spread of weeds and treat any outbreak; and treatment of weeds that have been identified for a specific period of time after construction. The plan is usually prepared in consultation with Agriculture portfolio of the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR). Host land holders will continue to use the land around the turbines for agriculture and therefore joint management of weeds is needed after construction. Council relies on the expertise of DJPR to assess weed monitoring reports.

Pest Animals

How do wind farms manage foxes and rabbits?

As a condition on the wind farm planning permit, a management plan to control pest animals has to be prepared before construction can begin. This forms part of the wind farm’s Environmental Management Plan (EMP). Typically, the plan will require an assessment of pest animals on site before and after construction and control of the pest animals that have been identified during construction and for a specific period of time after construction. The plan is usually prepared in consultation with Agriculture portfolio of the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR).

Host land holders will continue to use the land around the turbines for agriculture and therefore joint management of pest animals is needed after construction. Council relies on the expertise of DJPR to assess monitoring reports required by the pest management plan.

Biosecurity

How do wind farms manage soil borne pathogens or stock diseases?

More recent wind farm permits require a developer to prepare and implement a Biosecurity Management Plan as part of the EMP. This requires the developer to identify and prevent

biosecurity risks, including pathogens that may be spread if equipment is moved between farms. This plan is usually prepared in consultation with experts in the Agriculture portfolio of the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR). Older permits only required a focus on pest plants and animals.

Native vegetation

Are developers allowed to remove native vegetation when building a wind farm or transmission line?

Before a planning permit is issued for a wind farm or transmission line the developer needs to do an assessment of the native vegetation on the site and estimate how much native vegetation will be removed. In planning the layout of the wind farm the developer needs to minimise the removal of significant vegetation. The permit will then specify the amount that can be removed and any offsets for this vegetation that need to be protected. The authorisation and administration of this offset program is management by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. www.environment.vic.gov.au/native-vegetation/native-vegetation

Threatened flora or fauna

How do wind farms minimise the impact on threatened plants and animals? The assessment of a proposed wind farm must carefully examine any risk to flora and fauna species. Impacts on flora and fauna species and habitat from wind farms and associated infrastructure are minimised through siting and design measures at the project planning stage. Flora and fauna can be protected at a national or state level under various legislation or agreements.

Conditions relating to specific species (e.g. Brolgas) may be placed on a planning permit if environmental studies show that there is a risk to that species. More general conditions may require the proponent to develop and implement a flora and fauna management plan that covers a range of species. For detail refer to the Policy and planning guidelines for development of wind energy facilities in Victoria DELWP July 2021.

Emergencies

How do wind farms prevent and manage bushfires and other emergencies?

A wind farm planning permit requires the developer to prepare a management plan for bushfire prevention and emergency response. This plan is developed for both the construction and operation phases of the wind farm and includes how fuel loads will be managed. CFA have developed Design Guideline and Model Requirements for Renewable Energy Facilities (2022) that set out requirements for emergency prevention and response. The developer is required to liaise with the CFA and Council when preparing their emergency plans. These plans set out obligations for access; water storage; vegetation management; fire protection; operation and maintenance; emergency management protocols; training and site familiarisation.

Can the CFA enter a wind farm property to fight a fire?

Yes – the CFA requires the wind farm to have adequate access for fire fighting vehicles and a fire fighting water supply with clear directional signage. These requirements are detailed in the CFA’s Design Guideline and Model Requirements for Renewable Energy Facilities (2022)

Can fire fighting aircraft operate over a wind farm?

Yes - wind turbines must be located no less than 300 metres apart. This provides adequate distance for aircraft to operate around a wind energy facility given the appropriate weather and terrain conditions. Fire suppression aircraft operate under Visual Flight Rules. As such, fire suppression aircraft only operate in areas where there is no smoke and can operate during the day or night.

For detail refer to the Design Guideline and Model Requirements for Renewable Energy Facilities (2022)

 

Television and radio reception

Can a wind farm affect my television or radio reception?

Before a wind farm can begin construction it must carry out a survey of television and radio reception in an area close to the wind farm. The distance is specified in the permit.

Once the wind farm is operational, a compliant can be made to the wind farm operator if you think that your reception has been affected. Details about how to make a complaint are on the wind farm’s website. The wind farm operator will then investigate this complaint, if it is within the distance specified in the permit, by comparing present interference with the pre-construction reception survey. If increased interference is detected, then the wind farm operator must undertake measures to mitigate the problem.

Blade Shadow Flicker

Can a wind farm cause shadows and flickering on my property?

The turning of the blades of a wind turbine can cause shadows or flickering at your property if you are close to the wind farm. The planning permit specifies the level of shadow flicker that cannot be exceeded per annum at any dwelling that existed before the date specified in the permit or if a landowner agreement with the operator exists.

Each wind farm operator has a complaint evaluation and response plan that must cover shadow flicker complaints. Complaints should be made to the wind farm operator. Details about how to make a complaint are on the wind farm’s website. The wind farm operator will investigate this complaint in accordance with their plan.

Transmission lines

Can high voltage powerlines go underground?

Yes, high voltage transmission lines can go underground. This has been demonstrated by Mortlake South Wind Farm, where 15 km of 220 kV powerline was placed underground from the wind farm site to the Terang substation.

Who manages the high voltage powerlines that are linked to wind farms? Transmission lines carry electricity from a wind farm to the National Electricity Grid. Transmission Network Service Providers (e.g. AusNet Services in Victoria) are usually responsible for transmission lines. In some instances, the transmission lines can be privately owned and operated.

Decommissioning

How long do wind turbines and wind farms operate?

The first wind farm in Victoria located at Codrington commenced operation in 2001 and is still operating. The predicted life of a wind farm is around 20 – 30 years. As the wind farm approaches the end of its operational life, the wind farm owner will look at future options for the site. This could include decommissioning the site and restoring the area to its previous land use, or negotiate with landowners to repower or upgrade the equipment and extend the wind farm’s operational lifespan. Repurposing the site for another renewable energy facility would most likely require a new planning permit.

Who is responsible for removing turbines and cleaning up when a wind farm reaches the end of its life?

The company that holds the wind farm planning permit is responsible for decommissioning the wind farm. This includes removing the turbines and rehabilitating the site to the satisfaction of the land owner. The planning permit includes conditions about decommissioning. More recent planning permits require the permit holder and the land owners to form a binding agreement under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 to decommission the wind farm to the satisfaction of Council.

What happens when an entire wind farm is decommissioned?

When a wind farm is decommissioned the permit holder is expected to:

  • remove all above ground non-operational equipment;
  • remove and clean up any residual contamination;
  • rehabilitate all storage areas, construction areas, access tracks and other areas affected by the decommissioning of the turbines, if those areas are not otherwise useful to the on-going use;
  • revegetation the site;
  • implement appropriate traffic management for the decommissioning phase.

Community and Neighbour Benefits


I have heard that wind farms give out money for community projects. Who do I contact about this?

Most wind farms have a community benefit fund and regularly allocate grants for community projects. Some projects have community committees that help make decisions about these grants. Details of community benefit programs can be found on the individual wind farm’s website.

I have heard that some wind farms give out payments to people living close to a wind farm. Who do I contact about this?

Some projects provide specific benefits to people who live close to the wind farm. Details of neighbour benefit programs can be found on the individual project’s website.

Community Engagement Committees

What is the role of Moyne Shire’s Wind Farm Community Engagement Committees?

Moyne Shire Council’s Community Engagement Committee (CEC) model for major energy projects was established in 2009 due to the number of energy projects proposed and approved in Moyne Shire at that time. CECs are one tool to improve community engagement and communication regarding major energy projects in the Shire. Since 2009 there have been twelve CECs established for energy projects in Moyne. There are currently nine active CECs, all in relation to operating, approved and proposed wind farms.

CECs are Advisory Committees of Council. The general purposes of a CEC are:

  • Enhance the timely flow of information about a project between the community, the proponent, Council and other relevant stakeholders;
  • Establish productive working relationships between stakeholders.