5.1 Observations


The governance of standards related to the design, construction, operation and maintenance of large-scale energy projects rely on a range of standards, regulators, responsible authorities and compliance mechanisms to monitor and enforce those standards.

Standards are often set and maintained by the responsible authority (for example, a state planning department or environment department) and there are a variety of arrangements in place for enforcing compliance with the standards. Standards may be ‘borrowed’ from other jurisdictions (for example, Victoria uses the New Zealand (NZ) wind farm noise standard while the NSW noise standard is based on the South Australian standard), set by the planning function or set by the state agency responsible for environmental management and regulation.

Enforcement of standards and permit conditions also varies by jurisdiction and the type of standards. For the most part, there are no proactive compliance audit regimes in place – rather, compliance relies on authorities receiving and investigating complaints or alleged breaches of permit or license conditions. The pathway to make a compliance complaint or allegation again varies by jurisdiction and type of complaint. In some cases the state environmental regulator can receive and investigate noise or environmental complaints, in other cases it may be a local council, state planning department or the relevant Australian Government department.

Compliance Complaints

It is often unclear to community members where or who they should lodge a complaint regarding compliance. Planning permits may not always clearly state the accountability and responsibilities in regard to compliance oversight, nor may they prescribe a process for handling potential or actual non-compliance. Further, local councils and state planning functions may not have the necessary skills and expertise to handle and investigate a compliance complaint. Federal agencies, such as the Clean Energy Regulator, rely on a clear understanding of the responsible, state-based compliance authority and the authority’s advice if the Regulator is to consider acting on allegations of non-compliance or breach of a law.

Interpretation and Consistency of Standards

‘Borrowed’ standards can be difficult to administrate or enforce if a protocol has not been developed for the local jurisdiction. As an example, the NZ noise standard (used in Victoria and Tasmania) has a concept of low and high amenity geographic areas for determining the appropriate noise limits for a wind farm. Victoria’s planning scheme does not define such areas, making it difficult to interpret and apply the NZ standard ‘as is’ in the Victorian context (see Cherry Tree Wind Farm Pty Ltd v Mitchell SC & Ors [2013] VCAT 435). 

Issues have also arisen regarding the application of tonal noise penalties provided for in the NZ standard. The application of the standard is open to interpretation in that regard, and Victoria/Tasmania must rely on interpretations from New Zealand court proceedings to clarify the standard’s application. This can be a difficult matter to resolve, particularly in the event the interpretation has also been a topic of debate in New Zealand itself (see Decision of Hearing Commissioners re Palmerston North City Council v New Zealand Windfarms Ltd – November 2017).

Typical standards and permit requirements relevant to a project’s development and operation can include matters such as audible noise, shadow flicker, visual amenity impacts, setback distances, environmental matters related to flora and fauna, vegetation clearance as well as noise and dust levels during construction.

It was pleasing to observe that, in 2021, the Victorian Government recognised these complexities. The Victorian EPA now has responsibility for wind farm noise regulations and compliance in Victoria (a role previously assigned to local Councils), including the interpretation and application of the NZ Noise Standard as it applies in Victoria. These changes followed similar reforms in NSW, where wind farms must obtain and maintain a license from the EPA to operate.

Noise Limits and Criteria

Noise standards relating to wind farms currently vary by state. For example, the wind farm noise limit standard in Victoria and Tasmania is 40 dB(A)* measured outside the residence. South Australia varies between 35 dB(A)* and 40 dB(A)* based on the location of the wind farm, Western Australia is 35 dB(A)*, New South Wales is 35 dB(A)* and Queensland’s standard is 37 dB(A)* during the day and 35 dB(A)* during the night. The approach to measuring both the background noise levels at a proposed wind farm site as well as the noise emitted from an operating wind farm can also vary by project and jurisdiction, which can lead to debate over the veracity of the noise assessment results.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) noise guidelines released in 2018 recommended a 45 dB (Lden) limit for wind farm noise, as measured outside the residence, to prevent negative effects on sleep and health. However, the report noted the lack of research or evidence available to conclusively support this new guideline limit. Previous WHO guidelines were based on an inside measurement limit of 30 dB(A), although it can be difficult and intrusive to carry out wind farm noise testing inside a residence, particularly over a long period of time.

Current wind farm noise criteria therefore rely on the effects of attenuation of the noise by the residence structure and would assume that a noise level of say 40 dB(A) measured outside the residence should be less than 30 dB(A) measured inside, based on an expected attenuation in the order of 10-15 dB(A). This attenuation may be greater if the dwelling’s windows are closed and the residence is of solid construction and well insulated, however, the effective attenuation may be less if windows are open and/or construction and insulation of the residence is less robust.

Issues can also arise where a wind farm is tested for noise and the result exceeds the limit by a marginal amount, for example 40.2 dB(A) against a limit of 40 dB(A). The Commissioner’s understanding is that a difference of up to 2.0 dB(A) would not be discernible by the human ear and is the result of the complex mathematical calculations that assess multiple noise data points. There may be some merit in allowing for a small, reasonable tolerance level to avoid wind farms being in technical breach of compliance while not materially exceeding the stated limit criteria. It should be noted that our Office now receives very few complaints about audible wind farm noise and nearly all noise complaints relate to proposed wind farms and the perceived concern that the wind farm will be noisy.

The debate as to whether or not a low frequency standard should also be introduced, such as a dB(C) and/or dB(G) weighting has dissipated. The prevailing argument is that the ‘A weighted scale’, which has been designed to replicate the human ear’s sensitivity to noise, accommodates a sufficient proxy for low frequency noise – noting that low frequency noise can be difficult to detect at levels that would actually breach threshold targets. 

The Office’s case data has seen a significant reduction over time from complainants citing concerns about low frequency noise or vibrations emanating from operating wind farms. Further, recent research from Flinders University indicates that the source of vibrations being sensed by persons living near wind farms is unlikely to be from the wind farm’s turbines (see Human Perception of Wind Farm Vibration, Duc-Phuc Nguyen, Kristy Hansen and Branko Zajamsek).

Another recent Flinders University study found that residents, who live within 10km of a wind farm, reported sleep issues were from other sources, such as insomnia, stress and snoring spouses, rather than the nearby wind farms – only 0.3% of the 500+ residents involved in the study attributed sleep disturbance to wind farm noise (see Wind Farm Noise and Sleep Disruption – Flinders University NewsDesk, 13 October 2021).

Based on this research and our own findings from handling noise complaints, it is unlikely that wind farm noise is causing sleep deprivation. Residents concerned about wind farm noise being heard inside the dwelling should have their residence checked by a qualified acoustician to determine the root cause of the noise. Residents having difficulty sleeping should seek advice from their doctor.

There may be other sources of noise as a result of the project’s operation, in particular noise that would emanate from the electrical infrastructure, including power substations, transformers and back-up generators. The potential impact of such noise sources should be assessed during the design phase and tested for compliance during any post-construction noise testing.

Finally, the Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines has derived a suggested wind turbine noise limit of 35 dB(A) (LA90,10-min) to ensure minimal possible annoyance. This suggested limit approximately equates to a LAeq,10-min of 37 dB(A) or a Lden of 43 dB(A).

Setback Distances

A setback distance (also known as a ‘veto’ distance) is a default distance that, if a residence (dwelling) is within that specified distance from a proposed infrastructure, such as a wind turbine, solar array or even potentially a large-scale transmission line, that the resident can either veto the proposed asset location or enter into a commercial agreement with the developer to allow the asset to be sited within the setback distance limit.

Setback distances from an asset to a residence also vary across states. For example, Victoria originally had no setback distances for wind turbines, then introduced a 2 km setback distance in 2011 and subsequently amended it to 1 km in 2015. Queensland has a setback distance of 1.5 km, while the New South Wales framework is currently based on a merit assessment of each project against the criteria and performance standards in the framework. Western Australia has recommended a 1.5 km setback in their Position Statement: Renewable Energy Facilities (Western Australian Planning Commission, March 2020). 

Setback distances for large-scale solar arrays are still largely being developed and refined by state governments. We would expect default setback distances to be in place for distances between neighbouring residences, property boundaries and roads and the nearest solar array.

Current setback distances for wind turbines have been predominately set based on legacy turbine dimensions and expected outcomes from noise standards. As a rough rule of thumb, a 40 dB(A) noise contour should be just less than about one kilometre from the turbine(s), whereas a 35 dB(A) noise contour is typically less than 1.5 km from turbines, although these distances can vary with topography and terrain. Turbines installed during the last decade have mostly been at tip heights in the order of 150 metres and around 2 MW to 3 MW in capacity.

New projects are now proposing turbines with tip heights in excess of 220 metres and capacity of up to 6 MW or more per turbine. Improvements in turbine design have mitigated the noise effects and, generally speaking, the noise contours have not materially changed for these larger turbines, despite increased hub and tip heights as well as generating capacity. However, there may well be effects of increased visual amenity and shadow flicker impacts that may give rise for a need to revisit current set back distances and increase them accordingly. 

While setback distances are typically based on the distance from the wind turbine to the residence, there may also be circumstances where the distance of the turbine from the neighbour’s property boundary should also be a consideration. Such circumstances could include the potential effect of wind turbines on animals such as horses, driving distractions on nearby roads or other situations where turbines may impact neighbouring properties due to their proximity to land use activities on a property. 

The British Horse Society recommends a minimum setback distance from wind turbines to horses of 200 metres or three times the blade tip height – whichever is greater – on the basis that horses could potentially react to noise, blade rotation and shadow flicker impacts from wind turbines (see the Society’s Wind Turbines and Horses – Guidance for Planners and Developers, 2015). The Society’s report notes that, while there have been anecdotal reports of livestock such as horses being impacted by turbines, no formally recognised studies have established demonstrable causality.

Upper Lachlan Shire’s Development Control Plan specifies that turbines shall not be located within a distance of two times the tip height of a turbine from a formed public road or a non-involved property boundary. For example, a tip height of 150 metres would require a setback of 300 metres from a road or property boundary according to these guidelines (see Upper Lachlan Development Control Plan 2010, page 93).

Further, there is the possibility of a turbine blade ‘dropping’ or being ‘thrown’ from the turbine while in operation. The Commissioner is aware of five such events in Australia in recent times. As discussed in further detail in Section 9 (Health and Safety), the Commissioner has facilitated meetings with industry to discuss wind farm safety incidents, agreeing to adopt measures to ensure full transparency and sharing of incident information across the industry. Corrective actions and mitigation strategies are in the process of being implemented to avoid future incidents, however these recent events also support the need for a default setback distance from roads and boundary fences in the order of 200 metres to allow for a safety margin in the event of a blade drop or throw.

Electrical infrastructure required for the project, such as new high voltage transmission lines to connect the generator to the grid, may also cause a change in visual amenity for community members and have other impacts. Consideration should be given for those impacts and require setback distances as they may also be appropriate to mitigate visual amenity loss and noise issues arising from the infrastructure.

Guidelines for setback distances between a large-scale, high voltage transmission lines and say neighbouring residences, parks, schools, roads etc. currently do not exist and rely on the best efforts of the route plan to avoid conflicts where possible. A typical industry design guideline is a setback distance of 300 metres between the transmission line (500kV) and an existing residence.  

The transition of the energy industry to renewables and the requirement to build transmission to facilitate this transition, will require transmission routes to traverse established, built up areas. Setback guidelines from planning authorities are essential to protect close neighbours, as well as hosts, of the project.

Shadow Flicker

As mentioned in our 2021 Annual Report, the time has come to review the current standards for wind turbine shadow flicker. A typical standard at present is a limit of 30 hours of shadow flicker per year received at a resident’s external window or garden area. This standard, used across Australia, has been sourced from shadow flicker standards developed and utilised in Europe, where setback distances to residences are typically less restrictive. At, say, a 1 km distance from a turbine, the residence would be highly unlikely to receive 30 hours of actual shadow flicker across a twelve-month period. 

A more appropriate standard in the Australian context could be a limit of no more than a total 15 hours of actual shadow flicker per year received at a residence and no more than 30 minutes of shadow flicker should be experienced on a given day. Neighbours experiencing (or likely to experience) shadow flicker that is annoying, should also be provided with the opportunity for having visual screening installed. 

However, to date, shadow flicker complaints about operating wind farms have been minimal. Given the other standards placed on wind turbines regarding setbacks and turbine noise emission contour requirements, there may be merit in discontinuing the requirement for modelling and predicting shadow flicker impacts beyond a threshold distance (e.g., 1 km) between the dwelling and the turbine.                                                                                                                              

Guidelines for Solar Farms

Solar farms have their own specific parameters requiring standards and criteria to assist in assessing potential projects and recommending mitigations for predicted impacts. Examples include impacts related to visual amenity, glare and glint, reduction in productive agricultural land, hydrology and water flows, environment and biodiversity, ‘heat island’ effect, health and contribution to cumulative impacts of neighbouring projects on nearby residents and communities.

Most jurisdictions continue to evolve and refine their large-scale solar farm guidelines. Examples include the New South Wales Government’s Large-Scale Solar Energy Guideline, drafted in 2018 and updated in August 2022; the Victorian Government’s Solar Energy Facilities – Design and Development Guidelines, initially drafted in 2019 and updated in October 2022; and the Queensland Government’s Solar Farm Guidelines, drafted in 2018. Though there are no standalone solar farm guidelines issued by the South Australian Government, their overall Planning and Design Code document provides provisions for solar developments, which was released in July 2020. All of the above guidelines are available on the Commissioner’s website. 

The primary objective of these guidelines is to support the development of the sustainable solar industry by providing clear, consistent and responsive policy framework from the standpoint of each jurisdiction. They aim is to provide information on issues like planning frameworks, community and stakeholder engagement, site selection, assessment issues and requirements, agricultural impact assessment requirements, private agreements between landholders and applicants and glint and glare assessments and best practices on decommissioning and rehabilitation, among other things. 

Most guidelines are informed by each jurisdiction’s legislative and statutory planning framework, extensive consultation and feedback from community, industry and regulators on the assessment of large-scale solar energy projects. The guidelines provide information from the perspectives of community and landowners as well the perspective of the proponents.

Our Office will continue to work with each jurisdiction and contribute to further refinements to solar development guidelines. 

Harmonisation of Standards

While great progress has been made in some jurisdictions, the opportunity still exists for a clearer framework of standard setting and enforcement of standards, whereby there is independence in the setting and enforcement of standards from the planning function. Such independence allows for increased community confidence in the objectivity of setting standards and assessing compliance. It also allows the relevant independent agency to acquire and maintain the appropriate skills and expertise to fulfil its standards and compliance responsibilities.

The opportunity also exists for increased harmonisation of key standards across state jurisdictions, such as noise, visual amenity, shadow flicker and setback distances, providing a consistent approach and expectations for governments, industry and the community. Consistency across the states will not only provide a more equitable outcome for residents potentially affected by projects but may also result in the additional benefit of driving improvements in the technology across the entire market based on the more stringent, while appropriate, standard.

While there may be a number of ways to address these issues, best practice appears to be assigning responsibility for the setting and compliance oversight of environmental-related standards with the state environmental regulator, while the application of the standards to specific projects rests with the state or local government planning authority. The current arrangements in place in New South Wales and South Australia generally reflect practices along these lines. Victoria is now also heading in that direction.  Without such separation, there is strong potential for conflicts of interest to arise if the planning authority is also the environmental regulator – and vice versa.

While standards and categories of standards for wind farm projects is reasonably mature, more work is required to detail the equivalent set of planning and environmental standards for solar farms.

Large-scale Transmission (new build)

For new major transmission projects, guidance should be provided on appropriate setback distances from residences, schools, public buildings, parks etc. to the transmission line easement boundary Guidance is also required for other impacts including visual amenity, cumulative assets, environment and biodiversity, noise, health and safety.

These topics are still very much work in progress and further direction may arise as a result of environmental impact studies underway for major transmission projects currently being developed.  

NSW gas commenced the development of draft planning guidelines for large scale transmission, and we expect others will follow suit.

Some suggested planning guidelines and metrics are provided in the recommendations in this section.

Deemed Compliance

Finally, once a wind or solar farm commences operations, it may not have achieved formal compliance of all conditions until the project is completed, commissioned and all the post-construction compliance testing has been completed and accepted. Typically, formal post construction testing, such as noise testing of a wind farm, can only commence once all turbines are operating. The post-construction noise testing itself may take up to 12 months to complete and report. As a result, there may be a period of two or more years where the wind farm is partially or fully operating but is yet to be confirmed as compliant. 

A project may therefore effectively default to being deemed as compliant in some jurisdictions, even though post-construction assessments have not commenced or been completed, relying on the predictive assessments undertaken prior to construction as the basis of being ‘compliant’. There is an opportunity for planning/compliance authorities to introduce more formal processes to properly clarify the ‘deemed’ compliance period and then clearly state when a project is confirmed as compliant (once all the required post-construction testing is complete and the results confirm compliance with the criteria) and the timeframes for when that must occur. 

The interim period of compliance uncertainty can cause a range of community concerns, particularly at, say large wind farm projects that may have a two year plus construction cycle followed by a 12-month post-construction testing/reporting program.

Anecdotally, some projects have been described as being ‘not non-compliant’ when unable to confirm compliance with required permit conditions, highlighting the difficulty of declaring a project to be ‘non-compliant’ when its default status is compliant. Again, it may be appropriate to consider that a project is deemed to be operationally compliant during the construction, commissioning and testing periods, but ongoing compliance is subject to final confirmation by the responsible or regulatory authority after compliance testing is completed.

From the Commissioner’s observations, one solution to this issue is for a wind farm to be licensed by the appropriate environmental regulator. Under this scenario, the wind farm would need to confirm and maintain its compliance with the applicable license and permit conditions or risk losing its license to operate in the event of unrectified material breaches of the license and/or permit conditions. The license conditions could include conditions to be met during the period prior to post-construction testing, particularly regarding handling abnormal or mechanical noise issues that can arise.

The license or approval to operate may also require the asset operator to carry out periodic post-construction noise testing on the wind farm to be able to confirm ongoing compliance of the asset. Victoria has recently introduced such a requirement on all operating wind farms in that State.

Measurement approaches for measuring compliance with the standards can also vary between projects and jurisdictions. Given the extraordinary number of variables to be measured, consideration needs to be given to the consistency of measurement, calculations and reporting for assessing environmental measures such as noise and flora and fauna impacts when setting permit or license conditions.

For example, there is much scope for variability when selecting the noise data points to be included in a noise compliance assessment and determining the ‘line of best fit’ for those set of noise data points – such variances could mean the difference between compliance or otherwise when assessing the results of a noise testing program. Section 6, which follows this section, discusses the merits of an independent audit regime to check the accuracy and integrity of environmental assessments, such as noise.

5.2 Recommendations

5.2.1    State governments should review and clarify their arrangements for the setting of and maintaining environmental standards, along with the arrangements for oversight and confirmation of a project’s compliance with those standards. It is preferred that the department(s) or agency setting and maintaining the various standards is independent of the authority responsible for planning guidelines and applying those standards. 

5.2.2    The compliance authorities for a project should be clearly defined, transparent, accessible to the community and able to receive and investigate allegations of compliance breaches. Where compliance oversight currently rests with local government, appropriate support and resources should be made available to the council/shire to enable them to effectively perform their compliance and investigative responsibilities. This includes being equipped with the appropriate policies, processes and procedures to handle alleged breaches of permit/license compliance and/or laws.

5.2.3    Based on the outcome of the review outlined in Recommendation 5.2.1, state governments should consider whether the current arrangements are appropriate, effective and consistent with best practices for the independent development, maintenance, compliance management and governance of environmental standards applicable to projects.

5.2.4    In considering the above recommendations and possible reforms, the roles of an appropriate independent, state based, standards and compliance agency (such as a state environmental protection or regulatory authority) could include responsibility to: 

  • Set and maintain the environmental standards applied to wind and solar farms, including setback distances, noise, shadow flicker, visual amenity, flora and fauna, environment and heritage (noting the role of the Commonwealth in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 with regard to Matters of National Environmental Significance – including protected flora and fauna), along with specifying the methods and procedures for measurement of the prescribed standards.
  • Review planning applications for projects and recommend/require permit conditions related to the environmental standards. Environmental standard conditions in permits should clearly state the process for how the measurements are to be undertaken and reported as well as provide the opportunity for peer review of the process, calculations and results. 
  • Provide or facilitate peer review and audit of any expert reports, including review of testing and modelling programs, submitted by the developer to the relevant planning or statutory authority (see also Section 6).
  • Where appropriate, license the facility once it is constructed – and issue and monitor license conditions for the operation of the asset that may be subject to review and renewal. State governments should also receive and review regular reporting against those licence conditions from the project operator and may withdraw licences in the event of unrectified material breaches of applicable license and permit conditions.
  • Receive and investigate complaints related to environmental standards, including alleged breaches of non-compliance with permit requirements or relevant laws.
  • Confirm as required the compliance or non-compliance of an operating project regarding environmental standards, related permit conditions and relevant laws.
  • Report material compliance breaches and investigations to the Clean Energy Regulator and other relevant agencies.
  • Liaise with other state and federal agencies (e.g., Roads Authorities, Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Australian Government Departments of the Environment) on assessments and compliance matters that involve such agencies.

5.2.5    Planning permits (and/or applicable licenses) for projects should clearly state:

  • The oversight organisation(s) or person(s) accountable for determining compliance of a project with its permit (and/or license) conditions, during construction, post-construction and ongoing operational stages.
  • The process and contact details for lodging a complaint or alleged breach of permit (and/or license) compliance.
  • The process to be followed if a project is found to be non-compliant with one or more of the permits (and/or license) conditions.
  • A requirement for the developer or operator to publish transparently, on the project website, the process and contact details to make a complaint or alleged compliance breach to the designated oversight organisation, along with a list of complaints made about the project and their status or resolution.

5.2.6    During the period between the commencement of a project’s commissioning/operation and the completion of the required post-construction compliance assessments, the project could be designated to be in ‘provisional’ or ‘deemed’ compliance, pending the results of the assessments. In this scenario, a project can only move from ‘provisional compliance’ status to being confirmed as ‘compliant’ once the responsible authority has confirmed it is satisfied that the project is compliant as a result of any post-construction assessments. While the project is in ‘provisional compliance’ it is deemed to be compliant. Once a project has completed its post-construction assessments and confirmed to be compliant by the responsible authority, ongoing compliance is then overseen by the designated agency or responsible compliance authority. For the avoidance of doubt, a project that has been constructed in a way that is consistent with the requirements of any predictive assessments would be deemed compliant unless proven otherwise.

5.2.7    If a project’s facilities are deemed by a responsible authority to be in an unrectified material breach of compliance, the project’s facilities should be required by the responsible compliance authority to cease operating or curtail the non-compliant facilities until the non-compliance root causes are determined, rectified, and compliance is then achieved.

5.2.8    The Federal Government could review the compliance enforcement powers and actions that may be taken by the Clean Energy Regulator in the event of a suspected or confirmed unrectified material breach of compliance, including the Regulator’s ability to directly take punitive actions against a non-compliant project.

5.2.9    Governments should consider reviewing the primary standards across all jurisdictions, such as noise limits and setback distances for projects and associated infrastructure. Protocols should be developed and put in place to clarify the interpretation of ‘borrowed’ noise standards from other jurisdictions.    Based on current observations and the findings of the World Health Organization, it would appear that an appropriate level for a consistent wind farm noise limit would be 35 dB(A)*, measured approximately 20 metres outside of the residence towards the wind farm. Noise standards that specify ‘high’ and ‘low’ amenity noise level limits must have clear guidance that define when and where those limits are applicable.    Applied penalties for specific noise conditions, such as tonality and special audible characteristics, continue to be set at 5 dB(A). However, such noise complaints should also be assessed on a subjective and reasonableness test at the receiver’s location by an approved, independent expert.    A default setback distance of 1.5 km between a residence or dwelling and the nearest wind turbine – for turbines with a tip height of up to 200 metres. For tip heights greater than 200 metres, a longer setback distance may be more appropriate to accommodate increased visual amenity impacts. Local topography, existing trees and vegetation, as well as terrain, need to be also considered when applying any default setback measures.    In addition to a setback distance between a turbine and a residence, a minimum default setback distance of 200 metres (as measured at ground level from the centre of the tower or 150 metres from the extended horizontal blade tip, whichever is the greater) and a neighbour’s boundary fence line or public road carriageway, should also be considered to mitigate potential amenity impacts safety risks. An appropriate risk assessment should be considered for setbacks from roads, particularly for low use roads, which may support a reduced setback distance.    In relation to private transmission lines (typically, private power lines connecting the generation/storage asset to the grid), a transmission line that is 66kV or less than 220kV should have a minimum setback distance of 100 metres from a residence, while a transmission line that is 220kV or greater should have a minimum setback distance of 200 metres. In the event that the connecting transmission line is 500kV, the setback distance should be 300 metres. The setback distance should be measured from the edge of the transmission line easement to the residence. Transmission line towers should also be set back from public roads, with the suggested setback distance of the transmission line towers measured as the tower height plus 20 metres.    Consideration should be given to setback distances between a wind farm and a materially populated township or city boundary. A distance of 5 km may be appropriate to preserve amenity and provide some flexibility for planning growth of the township Consideration of reducing these suggested setback provisions may be appropriate in the case of a small-scale, community-supported and owned wind energy facility.

5.2.10    The noise assessment design and compliance testing conditions should include assessment and testing of the project’s electrical infrastructure (transformers, substations, backup generators etc.) and noise levels from these sources need to be compliant with the applicable standards. 

5.2.11    A setback distance between a residence and other infrastructure associated with the project, should also be considered to help alleviate visual amenity, noise and other environmental impacts. These include a setback distance between a residence and a major transformer or generation infrastructure, such as a terminal substation. Where possible, project related transmission infrastructure should be placed underground and/or well away from residences and road reserves (see also Recommendation 

5.2.12    Private transmission power poles installed along a road reserve must comply with relevant road safety standards and guidelines for setback distances from the carriageway and comply with any other road safety treatment requirements and barrier specifications. Power pole locations must be pre-approved by the responsible authority.

5.2.13    Consideration should be given to reducing or eliminating the current standards for wind turbine shadow flicker. A typical standard at present is a limit of 30 hours of shadow flicker per year at a resident’s external window or garden area. A more appropriate standard could be no more than a total 15 hours of actual shadow flicker per year at a residence, and no more than 30 minutes of shadow flicker should be experienced on a given day. Neighbours experiencing (or likely to experience) shadow flicker that is annoying should also be provided with the opportunity for having visual screening installed as early as possible and/or be offered a Neighbour Agreement.

5.2.14    Final siting adjustments for turbines during construction (‘micro-siting’) should be limited to a distance of no more than 100 metres from the approved siting location and be no closer to a residence (or materially closer to a property boundary as per Recommendation 5.2.7). Siting adjustments should be properly documented, including the reasons for the change. Micro-siting of a distance greater than 100 metres should require prior written approval from the responsible authority.

5.2.15    Large-scale overhead transmission lines and towers (new build) for the electricity grid should have clear setback distances between the edge of the easement of the transmission line and nearby residences. Proposed setback distances should be consistent with Recommendation

  • 66kV up to <220KV – 100 metres
  • 220kV up to <500kV – 200 metres
  • 500kV – 300 metres

Where a setback distance cannot be achieved due to a constrained route corridor, the developer must negotiate a fair and reasonable agreement with the owner of the residence to allow the transmission line to be within the prescribed setback distance.

5.2.16    Other transmission line setback distances should be established for public roads, schools, public parks (including state and national parks) and be included in planning guidelines for new large-scale transmission lines.

5.2.17    Further to 5.2.15 and 5.2.16, setback distances also need to be established for underground transmission lines, which may differ depending on if the line is AC or DC. Underground transmission lines still require a range of above ground infrastructure to be implemented – such infrastructure should also be suitably setback from residences and other public areas.

5.2.18    Transmission line planning guidance should also be developed to accommodate the identification and mitigation of other impacts, such as visual amenity, noise, health, safety, environment, biodiversity, cumulative, community and safety.

Further information