This report provides a preliminary assessment of the key flora and fauna issues and resultant risks associated with the proposed Penshurst wind farm in southwest Victoria. The findings are based on an interrogation of existing databases, review of recent wind farm documents and decisions, site inspection, and consultation with DSE and other relevant experts.
The wind farm site is predominantly located on stony rise terrain, with undulating volcanic plains to the west and south. Both of these landforms have been substantially cleared and have a long agricultural use including cattle and sheep production.
The main issues for the proposal have been well articulated in recent assessments of other wind farms in the south-west. These were confirmed during the site inspection and in discussions with DSE and include known collision risk species namely:
- Brolga (FFG Act 1988) nest and flocking sites and migration routes;
- Migratory waterbirds listed under the EPBC Act 1999;
- Southern Bent-wing Bat (EPBC); particularly in relation to foraging movements on-site and dispersal routes to and from the roosting caves at Byaduk and Mt Napier;
- Other listed or otherwise threatened waterbirds e.g. Great Egret, Blue-billed Duck.
Several other items are potentially at risk due to loss of habitat / clearing either on the wind farm site or along service utility or transmission line routes and include:
- Plains Grassland FFG syn. Natural Temperate Grassland (EPBC)
- Plains Grassy Woodland FFG syn. Grassy Eucalypt Woodland (EPBC)
- Growling Grass Frog (EPBC)
The status of a number of other threatened fauna or flora potentially occurring at the wind farm site or along service routes is currently highly speculative.
The risk assessment suggests a moderate level of risk for most items. The Brolga is the only item to be currently assessed at high. Recent wind farm approvals suggest that these issues will most likely influence the design of the wind farm than be regarded as fatal flaws.
The proposal will need to be referred to the Commonwealth under the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and to the State under the Environment Effect Act 1978. The recent bilateral agreement between the State and Commonwealth should ensure a more efficient process if the project requires EPBC Act approval.