A project that spent a long time in the planning stage, the Bowmans Creek Wind east of Muswellbrook, has now been given the go ahead by the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC).
The IPC approved the $569 million wind farm, located in the Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone (REZ), with strict conditions that include a reduction in the number of originally proposed turbines from 56 to 54.
Bowmans Creek Wind Farm Pty Ltd, owned by Ark Energy Project Pty Ltd (Ark Energy), sought approval for Bowmans Creek Wind Farm, a State significant development which comprised a 347-megawatt (MW) wind farm of 56 turbines up to 220 metres high.
The turbines will be located on extensively cleared agricultural and mining land used primarily for beef cattle grazing in the localities of Bowmans Creek, Davis Creek, Goorangoola, Greenlands, Hebden, McCullys Gap, Muscle Creek, and Rouchel Brook.
The Department of Planning and Environment completed its whole-of-government assessment of the Bowmans Creek Wind Farm in November 2023.
The project was referred to the Commission for determination because at least 50 people objected to the proposed development.
The three-member Commission Panel, comprising Professor Alice Clark (Chair), Mr Richard Pearson and Mr Adrian Pilton, met with key stakeholders, conducted a site inspection and locality tour, held a public meeting In December last year where they heard from 18 speakers, and received 47 written submissions from the community.
Concerns raised by the community about the project included the visual impact of the turbines on private residences, effectiveness of proposed vegetation screening, the noise from the turbines and whether the wind at the site was capable of producing the energy projected.
Despite these objections the Panel has, granted development consent to the Bowmans Creek Wind Farm, subject to strict conditions.
In its Statement of Reasons, the Commission found that the proposed site is "is suitable for renewable energy development given its location within the Hunter-Central Coast REZ, proximity to existing electricity transmission networks, topography, wind resources, access to the regional road network, and avoidance of major environmental constraints."
The Commission acknowledged community concerns and imposed strict conditions of consent to mitigate a number of the issues raised. These conditions limit the development to a maximum of 54 turbines (335 MW). They also require the Applicant to implement visual impact mitigation measures including landscape screening on the land of any non-associated residence within 4.4km of a turbine; undertake noise monitoring and publish the results on its website; and manage traffic and transport impacts in consultation with the local community. The Applicant must also undertake decommissioning and rehabilitation of the site at the end of the project life. These and other conditions of consent are designed to:
. prevent, minimise and/or offset adverse environmental, social, and economic impacts;
. set standards and performance measures for acceptable environmental performance;
. require regular monitoring and reporting; and
. provide for the on-going environmental management of the development.
All the documents relating to the assessment and determination of this proposal can be found on the Commission's website: https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/cases/2023/11/bowmans-creek-wind-farm