A dispute involving an endangered parrot and one of the southern hemisphere’s largest planned wind farms has come to a head at a planning hearing in Australia.
Recharge reported last December how environmental regulators slapped a restriction on the proposed A$1.6bn ($1.1bn), 900MW Robbins Island Renewable Energy Park proceeding in northwest Tasmania that would force the project to remain idle for five months a year to avoid disrupting the migration patterns of the orange-bellied parrot.
Developer ACEN, which has said the shutdown would make the project unviable, told a planning hearing that Robbins Island – which has already cut the number of turbines it plans to deploy by 22 to 100 and their maximum height to 212 metres – would not have a “statistically significant effect” on the endangered bird’s survival prospects, reported Australia’s ABC News.
Counsel for the developer told the tribunal that wind projects in Australia are facing increasing barriers and that climate change poses a greater threat to rare species than risk of collision with turbines.
ACEN has offered to help fund a breeding programme and monitor turbines for collisions, it was reported.
Opponents of the wind farm challenging its approval told the hearing that "it simply makes no sense to pay public money to preserve a species, and then allow private development to pay to kill the same species," ABC said. The hearing continues.
ACEN Renewables, the clean energy arm of Philippines giant Ayala, claims the Robbins Island site is “one of the windiest in Australia” and wants to export its output via a 115km transmission line to the Tasmanian grid.
The clash Down Under mirrors challenges facing major renewable energy projects around the world, with regulating authorities having to balance the impact on the environment with the wider climate fight.
Denmark’s climate and energy minister Lars Aagaard told the WindEurope conference in Copenhagen earlier this year that environmental red tape was causing too many delays to offshore wind projects.
The minister said that “if our rules keep us from rolling out massive offshore wind capacity, there won’t be much of an ecosystem left to protect in the future to come”.