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2.1 Identifying suitable locations for wind energy development in Victoria
Wind energy facilities should not lead to unacceptable impacts on critical environmental, cultural or landscape values. Critical values are those protected under Commonwealth and Victorian legislation and assets of state or regional significance, mapped and recognised through planning schemes, including the Planning Policy Framework (PPF). The following matters need to be considered to determine suitable locations for new wind energy development.
2.1.1 Environmental values
A responsible authority and applicants must consider a range of relevant environmental values and risk factors when identifying suitable sites for wind energy facility development.
These matters are set out in the VPP and include (but are not limited to) the following considerations:
Flora and fauna
Impacts on flora, fauna species, and habitat from wind energy facilities and associated infrastructure can be minimised through siting and design measures at the project planning stage. Project-specific impacts can vary widely with location and species. The assessment of a proposed development must carefully examine any risk to flora and fauna species, and project design and adaptive management measures should be applied where necessary.
Flora and fauna can be protected at the national and state levels.
At the national level, responsible authorities and proponents need to be aware of the following:
- The Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (EPBC Act) provides for the protection of matters of national environmental significance, including nationally significant threatened species and wetlands protected under the Convention of Wetlands of International Importance (the Ramsar Convention).
- The habitat values of wetlands and wetland wildlife habitat designated under the Ramsar Convention or utilised by designated species under the Japan-Australia Migratory Birds Agreement (JAMBA), the China-Australia Migratory Birds Agreement (CAMBA), the Republic of Korea – Australia Migratory Birds Agreement (ROKAMBA).
At the state level, responsible authorities and proponents must consider (as relevant) the following:
- The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 which provides protection for species and ecosystems of statewide importance.
- The PPF sets out the state planning objectives for protecting and conserving biodiversity - refer to clause 12.01 (Biodiversity) of the VPP.
- Clause 52.17 (Native vegetation) of the VPP provides the relevant decision-making framework for native vegetation protection and conservation.
- Other sections of the Planning Scheme may require additional consideration of flora and fauna matters. These may be found in the PPF and the zone and overlay provisions.
Losses of native vegetation and habitat could occur because of the siting of turbines and associated infrastructure, the creation of access for large turbine components, and power lines to connect to the electricity network. The access requirements and the power lines will often be on land away from the wind energy facility site. If native vegetation is proposed to be removed as part of a development proposal, the responsible authority must have regard to the Guidelines for the removal, destruction or lopping of native vegetation (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning 2017).
The PPF sets out the Victorian Government’s policy objective and provides relevant strategies and guidelines for native vegetation management in clause 12.01 (Biodiversity) of the VPP. Additional planning provisions are set out in clause 52.16 (Native vegetation precinct plan) and clause 52.17 (Native vegetation).
Other environmental values and risk factors must also be considered in identifying suitable sites for wind energy facilities as set out in the PPF.
2.1.2 Significant landscape values
The Victorian Government recognises that the Victorian community places a high value on landscapes with significant visual amenity due to their environmental, social and economic benefits. Strategic planning plays an important role in identifying and managing these important landscapes.
A responsible authority and proponents must consider (as relevant) clause 12.05 (Significant environments and landscapes) of the VPP.
In addition, strategic landscape studies have been completed for several regions across Victoria, including the Great Ocean Road Region Landscape Assessment Study (2003) and the Coastal Spaces Landscape Assessment Study (2006). These studies identify visually significant landscapes and provide appropriate recommendations for improved planning scheme guidance. Clause 12.02 (Marine and Coastal environment) of the PPF requires these studies to be considered by decision-makers.
Relevant local strategic studies may also be referenced in the PPF, and significant landscapes may be recognised in overlays, such as the Environmental Significance Overlay, Vegetation Protection Overlay or the Significant Landscape Overlay.
To help guide appropriate site selection, design and layout of individual wind turbines, consideration should be given to the significance of the landscape as described in relevant planning scheme objectives, including relevant overlays and strategic studies referenced in the planning scheme.
Suggested mitigation measures to minimise the potential impact of wind energy facilities on a landscape set out in Section 5.1.3 of these guidelines should also be considered.
Landscape assessment requirements are also under the state environmental assessment process. For details, refer to Section 3.3.1 of these guidelines.
2.1.3 Aboriginal cultural heritage values and engagement with traditional owners
Wind energy facilities and associated infrastructure can impact First Peoples’ cultural heritage values. These values are protected under Victoria’s Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2018. Any impacts and the views of the Traditional Owners are considered in the early planning stages of a wind energy facility. The Department of Transport and Planning’s (DTP) Planning Practice Note 45: The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and the planning permit process provides guidance and assistance.
Where wind energy facilities are located on Crown Land, a range of legal requirements, including the provisions of the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993, may apply.
A responsible authority and proponents must also consider clause 15.03-2S (Aboriginal cultural heritage) of the PPF, which sets out the Victorian Government’s policy for protecting and conserving places of Aboriginal cultural heritage significance.
If approval is required under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, this must occur before a planning permit application can be determined.
Regardless of whether approval is required under the Aboriginal Heritage Act, all proponents are encouraged to undertake pre-application discussions with traditional owners to get their views on the project. DTP Planning can assist proponents in making these connections and commencing engagement.
2.1.4 Exclusion of wind energy facilities in National Parks, State Parks, Coastal Parks and other high-quality environmental and landscape locations in the state
Wind energy facilities are not permitted in the following areas, in recognition of their landscape and environmental values:
- National Parks and other land subject to the National Parks Act 1975
- Ramsar wetlands as defined under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
- Yarra Valley and Dandenong ranges, Bellarine and Mornington Peninsulas, the Great Ocean Road area within five kilometres of the high water mark, and Macedon and McHarg Ranges
- the land within five kilometres of the high water mark of the Bass Coast, west of Wilsons Promontory
- all land west of the Hume Freeway and the Goulburn Valley Highway
- all land within five kilometres of the high water mark of the coast east of the urban area of Warrnambool, and
- any other areas identified in the schedule to clause 52.32 in the relevant planning scheme.
The specific locations of these areas where wind energy facilities are not permitted are specified in the relevant planning schemes, in clause 52.32-2 and the schedule to this clause.
Exceptions to wind energy facility prohibitions include:
- Where the turbines are principally used to supply electricity for domestic or rural use of the land. These turbines are excluded from the definition of a wind energy facility in the VPP.*
- Turbines on land in a residential zone, an industrial zone, a commercial zone or a special purpose zone that are integrated as part of the development. This allows for the consideration of turbines in an urban setting which would allow for the generation of electricity to support the energy needs of a dwelling, industry, business or the like on the land.*
- Turbines on land described in a schedule to the National Parks Act 1975 principally used to supply electricity to a facility used in conjunction with conservation, recreation, administration, or accommodation use on that land. This allows for the generation of electricity for park facilities.
* Note: A turbine generating electricity for onsite use may be connected to the grid. The critical question in these circumstances is whether the wind energy facility or turbine(s) generates an amount of electricity that is generally proportional to the electricity requirements of the use of the land.
2.1.5 Exclusion of wind energy facilities in locations that are likely to be required for future population growth
A wind energy facility is a prohibited use in an Urban Growth Zone.
A wind energy facility is also prohibited on land within five kilometres of major regional cities and centres specified in the Regional Victoria Settlement Framework plan in the PPF, being: Ararat, Bairnsdale, Ballarat, Bendigo, Benalla, Colac, Echuca, Geelong, Hamilton, Horsham, Mildura, Moe, Morwell, Portland, Shepparton, Swan Hill, Traralgon, Sale, Wangaratta, Warrnambool and Wodonga.
These locations are specified in the relevant planning schemes in the schedule to clause 52.32-2. The five-kilometre exclusion areas are proposed to be replaced by more specific locations once the future growth planning for these centres has been completed.
These prohibitions do not apply:
- where the turbine is principally used to supply electricity for domestic or rural use of the land
- on land in a residential zone, an industrial zone, a commercial zone or a special purpose zone that is integrated as part of the development. This allows for the consideration of turbines in an urban setting, allowing electricity generation to support the energy needs of a dwelling, industry, business or the like on the land.
2.1.6 Turbines within one kilometre of an existing dwelling
If an existing dwelling is located within one kilometre of any turbine (measured from the centre of the tower at ground level) that forms part of a proposed wind energy facility, the permit application must be accompanied by evidence of the written consent of the dwelling owner. The application is prohibited by the planning scheme where evidence of written consent is not provided. This does not apply:
- where the turbine is principally used to supply electricity for domestic or rural use of the land
- on land in a residential zone, an industrial zone, a commercial zone or a special purpose zone. This allows for the consideration of turbines in an urban setting
- to an application to amend an existing permit unless the amendment proposes to increase the number of turbines or move a turbine so that it is located closer to an existing dwelling (within one kilometre of a turbine measured from the centre of the tower at ground level) than the closest permitted turbine to that dwelling. Refer to Section 4.3.1(b) of these guidelines.
2.1.7 Permit required for accommodation within 1 kilometre of a proposed wind energy facility
A planning permit is required in the Farming Zone for buildings or works associated with accommodation, including a dwelling located within one kilometre from the nearest title boundary of land subject to:
- a permit for a wind energy facility or
- an application for a permit for a wind energy facility or
- an incorporated document approving a wind energy facility, or
- a proposed wind energy facility for which an action has been taken under sections 8(1), 8(2), 8(3) or 8(4) of the Environment Effects Act 1978.
Wind energy facility proponents are encouraged to notify the local council (and provide a map of the proposed facility land boundary) as soon as one of the above occurs so that the council can determine when a permit is required for accommodation.
Page last updated: 13/09/23