FAR Northern MP Warren Entsch has welcomed today’s news that the Mt Emerald Wind Farm has been approved by Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt.
“This is fabulous news and I congratulate the project proponents, John Morris from Port Bajool and RATCH-Australia Corporation, for their perseverance during the lengthy assessment phase,” Mr Entsch said.
“The approval is subject to 35 strict conditions which will minimise its potential environmental impacts, and after speaking with Mr Morris I have full confidence that these conditions will be able to be met and will not impede the project’s success.”
Mr Entsch said that during construction, the project is expected to inject around $188 million into the Australian economy with 60 per cent of this being spent directly in Far North Queensland.
“It will also create 155 jobs during the construction phase, 11 jobs during the operational phase and an additional 145 jobs to be created indirectly during the construction phase.”
When operational, the wind farm will deliver around 650,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy and supply 75,000 North Queensland homes with electricity each year for 20 years.
“A recurring theme during the Northern Australia inquiry was the critical need for efficient, reliable and cost-effective energy generation in regional areas,” Mr Entsch said. “This was reflected in the White Paper for Developing Northern Australia.
“The Mt Emerald project aligns perfectly – once it’s operational, it’ll supply about a third of our region’s energy needs in one hit without the expense or waste that comes with transmitting electricity all the way from the South East’s coal-fired power stations.
“Looking further afield at the Cook Shire Solar Project, the Newcastle Ranges Wind Farm near Georgetown and others, there’s no doubt at all that Mt Emerald will be a catalyst for other innovative projects that will go a long way towards us seeing us self-sufficient in energy production.”
Mr Entsch said he was concerned however with the lengthy State and Federal approvals process for the project, which reinforced the need for a ‘One Stop Shop’ that would maintain high assessment standards but reduce duplication and delays.
“It reminds me a bit of the process that the Skyrail went through – if it wasn’t for the strength of that project and the patience of the proponents, it would never have got up,” he said.
“At the end of the day, time frames are money and delays can act as a major disincentive. We need a rigorous process but if we don’t shorten the time frames we could see really good projects for our region lost.”
The 35 strict conditions on the project will protect matters of national environmental significance, in particular the northern quoll, the spectacled flying-fox and the bare rumped sheathtail bat, during construction and ongoing operations.
Mr Entsch said he endorsed the Minster’s decision to use an ‘outcomes based conditions policy’ which aims to reduce the regulatory burden on business and encourage them to be innovative, while making sure that environmental targets are met.
“My congratulations again to those driving this project, I’m pleased that the Minister has seen the value in it and I firmly believe it’ll be a great thing for our region.”
Further information is available at http://epbcnotices.environment.gov.au/referralslist/referral-details/?id=5bb47218-4c67-e511-b4b8-005056ba00ab