Last week the Victorian government announced changes to wind farm planning laws.

The changes reduce the exclusion zone between houses and proposed wind turbine developments from two kilometres to one kilometre.  The changes also make the Minister for Planning, rather than Councils, responsible for approving new wind farm planning applications.

As with most forms of development, wind farms have the potential to adversely affect neighbours – and those affects should not be ignored.  Many of the concerns (construction nuisance, operational noise, visual impact and so on) that are typically raised in relation to wind farms however, are matters that can be avoided or mitigated by good design and / or can be controlled by appropriate permit conditions and other planning mechanisms.  Importantly, wind farms also have a number of significant positive affects including environmental benefits (reduced carbon emissions) and economic benefits (job creation in the sustainability industry).

The balancing of these effects, positive versus negative, has often been weighted too heavily against the development of wind farms.  We welcome therefore, the announcement by Government as a way of providing more opportunities for well designed wind farms to be approved and constructed in Victoria.

Better and clearer legislative direction from the Federal Government, in particular in relation to the Renewable Energy Target, would also assist the renewable energy sector – and we hope that this will be forthcoming soon too.  In the meantime, we are encouraged by the ‘step in the right direction’ by the State Government and are keeping our fingers crossed for some favourable autumn winds to help keep the turbines spinning.