THE $400 million Flat Rocks Wind Farm proposal has hit a bump in the road after the Great Southern Joint Development Assessment Panel (JDAP) rejected its application at a meeting last week.
The application for Moonies Hill Energy to install 44 wind turbines in the Broomehill-Tambellup shire was denied after the panel disclosed its concerns over the possible effects turbines might have on farming practices and questioned whether the wind farm would bring any tangible benefits to the community.
Kojonup farmer Roger Bilney raised the issues of interference with aerial spraying, noise and subsequent health impacts and the lack of community support for the project at the meeting.
He said the decision acknowledged the impact wind farms had on agricultural activities and at long last the concerns of the proposed project's neighbours had been listened to.
Latro Lawyers, who represented Mr Bilney at the meeting, said Moonies Hill Energy's plan failed to address a number of key issues.
"Essentially there was no investigation into the effect of placing turbines in close proximity to rural property boundaries," Latro director Cameron Syme said.
"What is an acceptable buffer zone in farming communities must be investigated further, especially in light of the problems experienced in communities such as Waterloo in South Australia.
"The WA guidelines for wind farms are grossly inadequate and don't accommodate recent research, especially the effects of infrasound levels in a rural environment."
Growers in the area, Alan and Narelle Goodall also expressed major concerns about the possible health implications and said wind farms continued to be forced on rural communities without proper understanding or research into the impact they might have on health.
On November 23, 2011, the Kojonup shire council unanimously approved stage one of the Flat Rocks Wind Farm project which proposed 30 turbines and an electrical sub-station be built in the Kojonup shire.
The project was first broached in 2009 but was met with opposition from a number of farmers in the region who were concerned about potential health effects and logistical impacts on their businesses.
In August last year, Mr Bilney said modern wind farm technology had out-paced local planning capacity and there had been little or no consultation from Moonies Hill Energy regarding the proposed plan.
But that comment was met with opposition from Moonies Hill Energy director Sarah Rankin who told Farm Weekly there had in fact been a wide range of community consultation throughout the planning phase.
Ms Rankin said this week that the company was assessing its options as to whether or not it would appeal the decision by the Great Southern JDAP.
Ms Rankin said the company was surprised by the decision as there was a precedence set in WA for wind farms to be compatible with farming and rural zones as there have been in rural shires.
Ms Rankin said Emu Downs, Walkaway, Merredin and Kojonup were clear examples of that.
"The State planning strategy which has recently been put out clearly states that there is potential for wind farms in WA as a major contribution to the electricity for the State," Ms Rankin said.
"The decision is not based on any real consistency with the requirement on traditional broadacre farming zones and the impact to carry on traditional farming."
Ms Rankin said the company was not yet aware why the proposal was knocked back.
The company has 28 days to appeal.
"We don't know what it was based on," she said.
"Moonies Hill submitted an extensive environmental impact report which showed that there was no effect on neighbours or properties in terms of their ability to continue broadacre farming.
"Wind farms are of great benefit to the district, in fact the Flat Rocks wind farm project will inject $130 million into the local economy over the life of the project."