Prairie Wind Farm impacts demonstrate need for more forward thinking in wind farm assessments

The Queensland Conservation Council has raised concerns that environmental assessment of the Prairie wind farm in North Queensland downplays impacts on threatened species, particularly in the context of more development planned in the region.

The concerns were submitted to Windlab, the developer of Prairie Wind Farm, which is an 800 MW project planned to be online by 2027 near Hughenden. Prairie is the first stage of a North Queensland SuperHub planned by Windlab which could reach up to 10,000 MW of clean energy.

Renewable energy plays a critical role in the transition to net zero emissions, however the development of renewable energy projects should not come at the expense of Queensland's unique flora and fauna.

Response to the Prairie Wind Farm Draft Preliminary Documentation EPBC

A huge change is coming for North and North West Queensland with the CopperString 2032 project unlocking renewable resources and new mineral resources that are needed for the energy transition.

The first stage of the Copper String project will run from Townsville to Hughenden, and Windlab is just one developer keen to build renewable energy to feed into CopperString and contribute to Queensland's clean energy future.

North Queensland's world-class solar and wind resources will allow the state to repower Queensland's electricity system and decarbonise electricity-intensive industries.

However, we need to ensure that development is appropriately planned, to avoid unacceptable impacts on nature and deliver long term benefits to communities. QCC and the North Queensland Conservation Council (NQCC) are concerned that the North Queensland SuperHub, and other wind farms, are being developed without a strategic overview of the environmental impact of these projects.

That's why we are urging the State Government and developers to work together to make sure that the cumulative impacts of this development are properly assessed and addressed.

The Prairie Wind Farm Preliminary Documentation, for example, argues that there is no significant impact on koala habitat, because the proportion of habitat cleared for Prairie is small in a region of still significantly vegetated cattle country.

But this does not consider what the impacts of double, or up to ten times, the renewable development that Windlab are pursuing in the region could be on koala habitat.

Windlab have already developed the Kennedy wind farm, near Hughenden. This should provide an opportunity to learn from its operation about the ongoing environmental impacts, for example, on birds. We need to have publicly available data on bird strikes, informed by frequent monitoring, to be able to improve operational and design practices as the industry ramps up.

QCC/NQCC joint submission on Prairie Wind Farm

Renewable energy is one of the best and fastest ways we can reduce emissions. However, building the renewable energy we need cannot come directly at the expense of the species and habitats we are attempting to save and protect.

Our submission to Windlab is just one of many submissions we have made to projects through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) process.

The EBPC Act is deeply flawed and we need significant reforms to it and state planning frameworks. Together, these regulations have allowed inappropriate development to occur for decades sending our climate and our species to the brink. We are working hard with both levels of Government and community groups to both demonstrate the need for change and propose real solutions to improve regulations. We’re seeing some movement in Renewable Energy Zone framework planning in Queensland, a review of the wind planning code and the EPBC reforms.

However we know these won’t be enough. We need to keep building pressure on politicians and companies and providing solutions to improve the roll out of renewable energy. We believe we can have a regenerative renewable energy industry that improves overall environmental outcomes for Queensland but we need to work together, work within the system we have and work to change it.

Banner image of Gawara Baya (previously Upper Burdekin) Wind Farm in North Queensland

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