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Wind farm in Australia's largest forest plantation to power one in four Queensland homes

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There is a wind of change in Australia’s largest pine plantation on Queensland’s Fraser and Cooloola coasts with plans to install turbines that would generate enough electricity to power one in four of the state’s homes.

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The Forest Wind project in the Tuan Forest is set to include 226 turbines and operators hope to have the construction of the 1200-megawatt farm under way before the end of next year.

The project is in its feasibility, design and approvals phase.

In August, State Parliament passed an amendment to allow the wind farm to be built in a state forest. Federal approval is also still required.

Why a forest?

Project director James Pennay said Forest Wind would become the largest wind farm in Australia.

“Queensland’s largest wind farm is at Coopers Gap is around a third of the size of what we are planning,” he said.

He said the site offered a strong wind profile and noise buffer.

“Countries such as Ireland, Scotland and Sweden all produce 10 per cent of their electricity from wind farms inside pine plantations,” Pennay said.

“This is a well-trodden path internationally, and we are really pleased to have the opportunity to do what other countries are doing overseas, in Queensland.”

Location raises environmental questions

Native title holders have raised concerns over the project’s impact on wildlife.

Butchulla Native Title Aboriginal Corporation director Gemma Cronin said the protection of raptor birds and bats needed to be a priority.

“Our straits are very important to some of the birds that do the biggest migration on Earth,” Cronin said.

“When we identified that they moved some of the turbines back.

“We’ve been speaking with the company, and apparently there’s different sonar they can put in place that keeps the birds back, and we want those things in place if the project goes ahead.”

Forest Wind has met with stakeholders in the surrounding communities of Poona, Maroom, Boonaroo, Tinana and Bauple to discuss environmental and noise concerns.

It said the site allows for buffers of double the required 1.5km distance from properties.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Maryborough-based construction company Jac Civil has started work on the site as part of further wind testing.

Managing director Glen Grohn said he hoped early involvement in the project would mean more work down the track.

“It gives us a case to showcase our capabilities at an early stage and put ourselves forward and show what we’re capable of,” Mr Grohn said.

“We hope it means a lot going forward, more security for the blokes that we have and the opportunity to expand a bit as well.

“We delight in seeing these jobs, even though a lot of the funding and expertise is going to come from outside of this area, run and manned by locals.”

Cronin said renewable energy offered several opportunities for much-needed jobs in the area which has a 10.2 per cent unemployment rate.

“We have not signed any agreements yet, we are still in negotiation with the company, and we have expectations,” Cronin said.

“We’d like a third of the workforce for the whole life of the project to be Butchulla.

“We see this as an opportunity to train our young in working in the renewables industry.

“Hopefully, we can show other people that this is a way of the future.”

– ABC / Nicole Hegarty

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