The Board of the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has concluded its assessment of a proposal by ACEN Robbins Island Pty Ltd for the Robbins Island Renewable Energy Park in the Circular Head municipality. The proposal was referred to the Board by the Circular Head Council in June 2020 following an assessment process that began in November 2017.
The proposal involves construction and operation of up to 122 wind turbines, in two stages, with a total generating capacity of up to 900 megawatts (MW) of electricity on Robbins Island, northwest Tasmania, approximately 20 km northwest of Smithton. A range of ancillary infrastructure is also proposed, including a bridge across Robbins Passage, a wharf, electrical infrastructure, new and upgraded roads, construction facilities, four quarries and operational facilities.
The Chair of the EPA Board, Andrew Paul, said that the Board concluded the proposed development can be managed in an environmentally sustainable and acceptable manner, with certain conditions. The Board requires these conditions to be included in any permit subsequently granted by the Circular Head Council.
“Various environmental issues were considered by the Board in its assessment, particularly management of threatened fauna species, including avian fauna and roadkill impacts to terrestrial fauna. Conditions have been imposed to ensure appropriate management practices are in place during construction and operation of the wind farm to reduce the risk of impact to threatened fauna,” Mr Paul said.
Mr Paul said “The Board has concluded that significant mitigation measures are required regarding potential impacts on the orange-bellied parrot population given the limited knowledge about the importance of Robbins Island in the annual northern and southern migrations, and that the National Recovery Plan for the Orange-bellied Parrot (OBP) (2016) needed to be accounted for in the Board’s assessment and decision.” This has led to the inclusion of condition FF6 which imposes shutdown periods during the migrations totalling five months when the turbines cannot operate.”
Condition FF6 states that “Unless otherwise approved in writing by the EPA Board, all Wind Turbine Generators must be shut down during the northern OBP migration period (1 March to 31 May inclusive) and the southern OBP migration period (15 September to 15 November inclusive)”.
383 representations were received in relation to the permit application. The environmental issues raised in these representations were varied and included potential impacts to threatened avian and terrestrial fauna, threatened native vegetation communities, threatened flora species, noise emissions, the impacts from the construction of the bridge and wharf on the marine environment, as well as impacts from disturbance of potential acid sulfate soils. Public consultation was open for a 44 day period from 15 January 2022.
The proposal was considered by the Board in the context of the sustainable development objectives of the Resource Management and Planning System of Tasmania (RMPS), and in the context of the objectives of the Environmental Management and Pollution Control System (EMPCS) established by the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (EMPCA).
The proposal has also been declared a Controlled Action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBCA) and has been assessed under the Bilateral Agreement made under section 45 of the EPBCA. The Commonwealth Minister or delegate will now consider the Board’s environmental assessment report in the EPBCA approval process.
The functions of the Board are to administer and enforce the provisions of EMPCA, to further the RMPS and EMPCS objectives and, in particular, to use its best endeavours to protect the environment of Tasmania.
The Board undertook the assessment of the proposal in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Principles defined in Section 74 of the Act.
The Board’s environmental assessment report, including the environmental conditions, has been provided to ACEN Robbins Island Pty Ltd, Circular Head Council and those who made a representation.