Cable to run through farmland to connect Australia's largest offshore windfarm

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Star of the South has released three proposed easements for underground cables through farmland in South Gippsland to connect Australia’s first offshore windfarm to the national electricity grid.

Key points:

  • Star of the South wants to run cables under farmland to connect a windfarm to the national grid to produce 18 per cent of Victoria’s electricity needs
  • Areas affected would be McGaurans Beach, south of Sale, and Reeves Beach in South Gippsland
  • Star of the South says it will compensate farmers for land value, lost production, and land rehabilitation once the cables are laid

The $10 billion windfarm would comprise approximately 250 turbines in the ocean off the Victorian coast and up to 80 kilometres of underground cabling to the Latrobe Valley.

Substations would also be built along the cable route.

If approved, the 2,000 megawatt windfarm would produce 18 per cent of Victoria’s electricity needs, enough power to service 1.2 million homes.

In a letter to be sent to affected landholders next week, the company outlines where the three potential easements would come ashore and the private property that would be affected.

Landholders scarred by Basslink

Landholders, anxious about being reasonably compensated, met last month to discuss their concerns about the disruption to their farm businesses.

Many of them were involved in a bitter battle with National Grid more than a decade ago, when large overhead pylons were built on their farms to allow for the Victoria–Tasmania power connector, Basslink.

“That’s partly why we decided to put our cable underground and from day one. We have certainly tried to be very transparent,” Star of the South chief development officer Erin Coldham said.

One proposed easement brings the cable to land at McGaurans Beach, south of Sale, and follows a 30-metre-wide easement used by Basslink.

The other two suggested cable routes start at nearby Reeves Beach.

“We’ve had to look for relatively flat terrain … and we’ve also looked at the Old Rosedale Road as a corridor,” Ms Coldham said.

“But we’ve got more work to do to narrow that down and come to a preferred option.”

The company has met with about 50 affected landholders, and said compensation offers would be fair and reasonable.

Landholders would sign an option agreement contract during the planning stage, that gives Star of the South partial rights to the land for an agreed use, price, and time.

That option is taken up and full compensation is paid once the easement is built and registered.

Farmers would be compensated for land value, lost production, and the cost of returning the land to its original condition once the cable has been laid.

Landholders’ legal and surveying costs would also be covered, to a degree.

“We are obviously looking to have negotiations with individuals but based on a fair and equitable formula across the board,” Ms Coldham said.

Landholders would retain ownership of the easement but would not be allowed to build anything, stockpile materials, or plant trees on the land.

Planning approvals needed

Star of the South has referred the windfarm project to the Victorian Minister for Planning to consider an Environmental Effects Statement and to the Federal Minister for Environment, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The company has been monitoring wave and wind conditions since November 2019.

Acoustic monitoring equipment has been placed on the sea floor to record the sounds of marine mammals including dolphins and seals.

Birds are being tagged to better understand whether the proposed turbines would disrupt their flight paths.

A large ship out of Lakes Entrance was used to map the seabed and measure water depths down to 80 metres to identify any buried obstacles including shipwrecks and old cables.

The company has signed a lease to open a project office in the main street of Yarram, and is inviting local residents to join a community advisory group for the project.