Buloke's Coonooer Bridge wind farm to expand

BULOKE Shire Council has passed a planning permit to allow an extra turbine on the municipality's first wind farm.

The Coonooer Bridge wind farm, near Charlton, will now have six turbines instead of the five council agreed to in June last year.

The project was the first wind farm in the state to be given the green light after the government tightened regulations in 2011.

Buloke Mayor Reid Mather said the permit amendment also allowed a substation and a site office to be added to the development.

He said council received two objections before Wednesday night's meeting.

"I expect they were similar to the previous objections we had the first time, around amenity and noise," he said. "Those objectors still have the opportunity to go to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal if they want to, within 21 days."

Cr Mather said the permit met government regulations and guidelines.

He said the Coonooer Bridge wind farm was different from other models.

"It's an interesting model because the community takes some ownership of it and gets some of the dividends," he said.

"It's a little different from the winners and losers model, where if you get a turbine on your property you do well, but you don't do so well if you're a neighbour."

Coonooer Bridge project manager Matthew Parton said the wind farm was jointly owned by Australian-owned wind farm developer Windlab Systems and landholders neighbouring the project.

"It is the first renewable energy project in the country with an ownership structure that includes the community in this manner," he said. "It's a very small project, but it will be a big ratepayer to the Buloke Shire."

Mr Parton said the company already had a community grants program in place and had contributed money to the Coonooer Bridge War Memorial restoration.

He said the project would also bring jobs and economic activity to the region.

Under the conditions of the planning permit, construction must start within three years of planning approval and be completed within five years.

Mr Parton said the company was still finalising a starting date.

"There's some uncertainty in the market in respect to cellular electricity at the moment," he said.

"The best-case scenario is we'll begin construction by the middle of the year. We expect to be building by the end of the year."

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