Koala Protection: Lotus Creek Wind Farm, QLD, Gets Green Light

Many factors have put koalas in danger in Australia. In recent years, their numbers have dropped significantly due to the climate, bushfires, and the rapid land clearing for agricultural and urban development. In Queensland and NSW, koala numbers have reduced by 50 per cent in the last two years. 

Land clearing for renewable energy has been put under the spotlight. The former Morrison Coalition government rejected the central Queensland wind farm because it threatened koalas. Now, it has been approved under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The construction will take place in the northwest of Rockhampton. 

What the project entails

The construction will consist of 55 wind turbines, each rated at up to 7MW with an estimated output of 341 MW. Initially, the wind farm was supposed to be 200MW and will be constructed by Epuron. However, due to the threat to koalas, the project was rejected. 

Epuron didn’t give up – in 2021, the company submitted a revised development application for the wind farm. The revision included a project layout redesign in which they reduced the number of turbines to 55 with an output of 341MW. 

It is also worth noting that Ark Energy officially acquired Epuron in May this year, and it was then that the Lotus Creek project was approved. 

According to Ark, “The proposal must be undertaken in accordance with the conditions specified in the approval, which include clearing limit and gaining the Minister’s approval prior to construction of offset plans that will provide a conservation gain, as well as various management plans and reporting requirements.”

The wind farm construction will commence in 2023, and it is estimated that it be completed in two years. It will generate 250-350 jobs during the construction phase. 

The challenges brought by renewable energy to wildlife

The fight against climate change is becoming stronger with the rapid construction of renewable energy projects. In Australia, solar panels, wind turbines, hydroelectric dams, and more are being built in states and territories.  

Unfortunately, despite the positive outcome that renewable energy is set to bring, it can also have harmful effects on the environment. 

Not free from environmental impacts

So, what are its environmental impacts? For one, wind turbines kill migratory birds and bats every year from collisions. Hydroelectric dams block migration routes for fish, preventing them from breeding. Finally, solar farms can produce intense sunlight that can harm insects and birds. 

The intensity of environmental impacts from renewable energy construction varies based on the technology used along with a number of other factors. 

What Queensland and other states are doing

Along with the rejection of the previous Lotus Creek proposal, Queensland is making efforts to preserve wildlife. In June, the Queensland government announced they would put over $24M into protecting koala populations and habitats in the state’s southeast. 

According to Dave Coleman, the Queensland Conservation Council’s director, Queensland has the highest number of threatened species in the country that is facing habitat destruction because of the “shocking rates of land clearing.”

In March of this year, over 90,000 hectares of koala habitat in Queensland were cleared, and 80 per cent was due to make way for beef production. The funding will help continue the Queensland government’s south-east five-year koala conservation strategy that will increase the population of the koalas. 

In NSW, the government has implemented a koala strategy that aims to double its population by 2050. A series of five-year plans and investments will be made to make this possible. In addition, the NSW Government committed over $190 million to deliver the targeted conservation actions. 

However, there is a demand for renewable energy, and the continuous building of renewable energy projects is happening across Australia. To protect the wildlife, there need to be stricter and clearer regulations to protect them. 

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