If made, the Regulation will have an impact on the future construction and operation of large wind power generators

The New South Wales Government is planning on introducing a new licensing requirement for large-scale wind power generators.

A draft of the proposed Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Wind Farms) Regulation 2012 (NSW) is open for public consultation until 23 January 2013. If brought into effect, it is expected to commence in March 2013.

The NSW Government recognises that the Regulation would only affect four existing wind farms (Gunning, Capital, Woodlawn and Cullerin Range), but it will have an impact on the future construction and operation of large wind power generators.

The proposed Regulation would affect wind turbine plant that:

  • is subject to an approval granted under Part 3A (which was repealed in late 2011) and Schedule 6A (the transitional regime to the repeal of Part 3A) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979;
  • is subject to a development consent relating to a State significant development granted under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 Part 4 prior to 1 August 2005, or under clause 89 of Schedule 6 (which ceased to have effect on the repeal of part 3A);
  • is declared to be a State significant development under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. This will be the most relevant category for prospective generators; and
  • has over 30 MW capacity and was operational immediately prior to 1 December 2012.

The effect of the Regulation would be to make electricity generation of the above types a "scheduled activity" under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW) (PEOA). Under section 48 of that Act the generators within these classes would require a premises-based environment protection licence for the conduct of these activities and the construction of these types of wind farms. The fee for the licence would be based on the annual GWh generating capacity of the turbines. Failure to hold a licence would be an offence to which financial penalties apply.

The intention of the Regulation is to provide for better regulation of the noise impacts of large wind-farms. It is considered that the Environmental Protection Authority is better resourced to regulate such impacts than local councils (who are the current "appropriate regulatory authority" for all wind farms under the PEOA). It is worth noting that the Environmental Protection Authority must keep any noise levels prescribed in the environmental protection licence substantially consistent with the development consents.