Why are we considering a potential wind farm at Dutson Downs?
There’s been a lot of interest in wind farms in our community recently.
We’re taking strong action against climate change and we’re keen to reach our renewable energy and carbon emission targets in a way that benefits both our customers and our local community.
Establishing a wind farm could help reduce our operating costs and may put downward pressure on customer bills.
What we have done so far
In February and March 2023, we asked the community and our customers to tell us how they felt about the possibility of a wind farm at the Dutson Downs property we manage.
At the time of this community engagement, no decision had been made to establish a wind farm at this location. This is still the case.
The purpose of the activities was to get early insight from our customers and community to inform our next steps.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their views.
Our engagement program
We sought the views of the communities closest to Dutson Downs, as well as our broader customer base.
Customer and community participation opportunities included:
- an online survey (paper versions also available)
- opportunities to provide feedback in writing, over the phone, and via email
- Community drop-in sessions in Longford, Golden Beach, Seaspray and Loch Sport
- three focus groups comprising our customers, with a diverse spread of demographics and towns of residence
- consultation with our Customer Reference Group
- an online information session
- consultation with stakeholders.
We promoted the opportunities to get involved through:
- promoting the survey and community drop-in sessions through flyers distributed to local shops in Longford, Golden Beach, Seaspray and Loch Sport
- advertising in local newspapers
- social media, including boosted Facebook and Instagram posts
- traditional media – local print, online, TV and radio news
- email – direct email to all members of our Customer Sounding Board
- community news – inclusion in our community newsletter sent to subscribers.
We have begun engaging with stakeholders in the region including Traditional Owners, government agencies, local councils and advocacy groups. These discussions will continue.
What we learned
The results of our early engagement activities show majority support for making land available in Dutson Downs for a wind farm.
Almost twice as many survey respondents indicated their support for a wind farm as those who had concerns. The focus group discussions and stakeholder consultations also indicate majority support.
About half of the community members living within 25 kilometres of Dutson Downs were supportive of a wind farm at that location.
A key learning from the early engagement is that there is a clear need for more information. Around 10 per cent of survey respondents indicated that they wanted more information before they formed a position, and many of those who indicated their support were also keen for more detail.
Although there is strong support for a wind farm, the community is keen for more information about:
- Details and plans – including likely timeline, on-site equipment, number of turbines, appearance, noise impact, environmental impact, who would operate it, who would own it, who would benefit
- Financial viability – studies that show a wind farm will be cost beneficial for customers as well as the local community, especially compared to alternative options
- Local impact – evidence that shows how the local community and environment could be impacted.
We worked with research and communications agency Think HQ to undertake the engagement program. Full details of the insights from the engagement activities are available in the Community Engagement Insights Report.
Our next step is to investigate if a wind farm in Dutson Downs is financially viable.
We expect to be able to report back within the next 12 months.
We’re committed to transparency and ongoing community engagement. We’ll keep the community up-to-date with what we learn, as our investigations progress, and we’ll share future opportunities to get involved. Thank you to everyone who has participated so far.
No decision to build a wind farm has been made.
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Questions and answers
It is within the Dutson Downs property we manage, south-east of Sale, see the map below.
The property we manage at Dutson Downs spans around 8,500 hectares.
Our Dutson Downs operations include Gippsland Regional Organics, our EPA licenced waste treatment and compost facility, which takes up about 350 hectares. Here we treat waste, including wastewater, biosolids and green waste, and recycle it into Australian-certified compost.
We also use the property for agriculture, with our Gippsland Regional Agribusiness managing cattle, pine plantations and crops on parts of the property.
The property has an important role in our Healthy Country and biodiversity initiatives. It has a large-scale carbon offset plantation, as well as native woodland, heathland and wetlands which are home to a diverse range of threatened native flora and fauna.
We actively work to conserve the environment and threatened species through support for research, on-ground works (such as fencing, pest plant and animal control), and reintroduction programs.
We will continue to use our Dutson Downs property for Gippsland Regional Organics, Agribusiness and Healthy Country activities, regardless of whether or not a wind farm is established there.
Yes. We’ll continue to explore a variety of renewable energy options. We already have solar installations at seven of our sites: the Gippsland Water Factory in Maryvale, the Warragul, Traralgon and Tyers water treatment plants, Warragul and Moe wastewater treatment plants, the Traralgon office. We also have a biogas engine and a hydroelectric generator at the Gippsland Water Factory, which help power that site.
At Dutson Downs, we have plans for two additional solar installations, totalling just over 500 kilowatts. We’re looking to use our learnings from our floating solar installation at the recently upgraded Drouin wastewater treatment plant and construct a system that could potentially be expanded over time. We’re also exploring the possibility of biogas generation technology into our waste recovery operations. The scale of these solar and biogas opportunities would be smaller than a wind farm opportunity.
All Victorian water corporations must have their operations 100% powered by renewable energy by 2025 (either purchased or generated themselves). We have also committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
There are multiple ways for us to meet these targets, including through the purchase of green energy as well as the use of other sources of renewable energy. A wind farm is only one option and even if we did decide proceed to commencing planning for one, it wouldn’t be established by 2025.
It’s likely that savings from reduced energy costs could put downward pressure on bills, but we haven’t completed detailed financial modelling yet.
As part of our investigations, we will need a detailed business case to assess the financial viability of a wind farm in Dutson Downs. We haven’t done this yet, but we do not want to see our customers’ bills increasing.
We operate a network worth over a billion dollars that includes 3,500 km of pipes and 29 treatment plants. Our purpose is to deliver water and wastewater services, doing this is energy intensive.
We are a massive consumer of electricity with a consumption equivalent to nearly 6,000 Gippsland homes. Our expertise in energy management is significant and it is critical to what we do. We already manage renewable energy systems at six of our sites. These are mostly solar energy systems, but also include biogas and hydroelectric generation. We’ll continue to build our expertise in renewable energy over the coming years.
Questions that will be investigated further if the project progresses to further feasibility studies.
We don’t yet know which turbines might be used, but it’s possible they could be up to 250 metres to the top of the blade – similar to other recently constructed wind farms
The area we’ve identified in the map above could be suitable for 10 or more, but it would depend on where investigations and feasibility studies lead.
A wind farm in this location would be at least 2-5 km from neighbouring properties and around 10km from the centre of Golden Beach. Based on our early understanding, we’d expect that turbines in the proposed location could be visible from some locations when travelling past.
More detailed studies are needed to work out if they’d be visible from nearby towns and to what extent. However, at this stage we’d expect visibility would be minimal and possibly not at all from nearby towns like Golden Beach, Paradise Beach, Loch Sport, Seaspray and Longford.
We don’t expect you’d be able to hear any noise beyond 500 metres from the turbines. The location being considered is about ten kilometres from the nearest town centres. We’re committed to finding out more about the potential noise impact.
We will need to do extensive impact assessments, testing and studies to ensure we fully understand the potential environmental impact, before a decision to develop a wind farm is made. Regulatory approvals would also be required if we were to proceed to that stage.
We’d ensure that we avoid the habitat of vulnerable or endangered species where possible and that bird flight paths are mapped to understand the heights and directions they fly, to try to avoid their flight path. There could also be operating conditions to minimise the impact.