Decade-long journey for wind farm reaches milestone

GOING AHEAD: Ironpot landholder Cyril Stewart is pleased to see the Coopers Gap Wind Farm given its final tick of approval before construction starts.
GOING AHEAD: Ironpot landholder Cyril Stewart is pleased to see the Coopers Gap Wind Farm given its final tick of approval before construction starts. Will Hunter

THE Coopers Gap Wind Farm has been a decade-long journey for landholders like Cyril Stewart.

But by 2019, Mr Stewart will almost certainly see wind turbines when he looks outside his windows.

"I never expected it to take this long, I must admit," Mr Stewart said.

"But at no stage did I think it would not be built eventually."

The renewable energy project was given its final green light last week, with energy company AGL securing financial close on the $850 million project.

Mr Stewart, a fourth generation resident of the area, said he was initially sceptical of the wind farm when it was first proposed in 2007.

"We had an open mind. We were in favour of the project as far as it went financially because it gave us an opportunity to drought-proof our enterprise," he said.

"Once we decided we were in favour of the project I joined the consultative committee and started doing our homework."

Mr Stewart said he read scientific research and visited a number of wind farms across the country before coming to his final conclusion.

"What we were told about the adverse effects of wind farms, if they were in fact true, we would have changed our mind," he said.

"We've got no qualms at all."

Artist Impression of Wind farm at Coopers Gap.
Artist Impression of Wind farm at Coopers Gap. gyn9038

Construction on 123 wind turbines is expected to start later this year, and be finished by mid-2019.

Mr Stewart said his Ironpot home would be about 800m from the nearest turbine.

"Unless the plan has been changed, we will be the closest house to any wind tower," he said.

"We'll be able to see them fairly prominently."

It is proposed three turbines will be built on Mr Stewart's property, which his parents Heath and Valerie first bought more than 50 years ago.

"Mum wants to live here as long as she can. We're not going anywhere," he said.

"It's not as though we're asking anybody to do anything we're not prepared to do ourselves.

"We've been here a long time and we're going to stay here a long time."

The wind farm will generate up to 200 jobs during the construction phase, and up to 20 permanent jobs once it is operational.

"If there's 20 permanent staff, some of them will be married, some of them will have kids," Mr Stewart said.

"It may mean the difference between a school bus still running, an extra teacher's aide at the school, a bit more profit for the local publican."

Mr Stewart said confirmation the wind farm would go ahead was a win for the whole community.

"I think in time, that's what people will come to see," he said.

"The penny's dropped. I've seen it in black and white now.

"It's a good feeling to see that all the work has finally come to fruition."

Topics:  agl coopers gap wind farm renewable energy

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