ELEANOR HALL: Tasmania's King Island is famous for its cheese and beef but it's also set to become the site of Australia's biggest wind farm.
Hydro Tasmania wants to build wind 200 turbines on the island.
The $2 billion project is expected to produce enough electricity to power half a million homes, as Felicity Ogilvie reports.
FELICITY OGILVIE: The winds that batter King Island are so strong that they have a name – the Roaring 40s.
The local Mayor, Greg Barratt, says the island is an ideal location to build Australia's biggest wind farm.
GREG BARRATT: We are at the mercy of the Roaring 40s. It is a windy place.
FELICITY OGILVIE: The state owned business Hydro Tasmania plans to use 200 towers to harness the power of the wind.
The Mayor says he's been told the wind towers will generate 600 megawatts of electricity.
GREG BARRATT: Enough to power a city of about half a million people. That's for household electricity. And now it will be taken by undersea cable to Victoria, crossing the Bellarine Peninsula somewhere near Geelong.
FELICITY OGILVIE: Tasmania already sends hydroelectric power into the national electricity market via a cable under Bass Straight.
It's unclear if Hydro Tasmania will be building a new cable to transfer the wind power from King Island.
The news that more clean energy could soon be flowing into his state has pleased Mark Wakeham from Environment Victoria.
MARK WAKEHAM: Well we're currently getting 90 per cent of our electricity in Victoria from a handful of polluting and outdated coal fired power stations so we definitely need to diversify and clean up our energy supply. Unfortunately the State Government in Victoria has made it very hard to get new wind farms off the ground by introducing two kilometre barriers for new wind farms across much of the state.
FELICITY OGILVIE: It's expected that some of King Island's beef cattle and dairy herds may end up grazing under the wind turbines.
The development comes at a time when the local abattoir has closed, and beef farmer, Roger Clemons hopes the new infrastructure will see the abattoir reopen.
ROGER CLEMENS: We need to study it carefully, not just sort of go along with things. I think it will be great for King Island, there will be additional benefits with port improvement, and shippings our biggest issue at the moment. If we can get a good port up and running, we'll keep a good shipping service. We might even be able to rebuild our abattoir and really get with it.
FELICITY OGILVIE: The King Island Chamber of Commerce has cautiously welcomed the planned farm, saying there will be 10 to 15 jobs when construction finishes in 2019.
And environmental concerns have been raised by the bird expert, Dr Eric Woehler.
ERIC WOEHLER: We have probably somewhere between 35 and 50 orange-bellied parrots left in the wild, they're a critically endangered species. So we have to be very concerned about any potential impact on those remaining birds from a wind farm.
FELICITY OGILVIE: The $2 billion project is expected to employ 400 people during the construction phase.
But the King Island community was told at a meeting last night that Hydro Tasmania won't build the wind towers if the locals don't support the project.
ELEANOR HALL: Felicity Ogilvie.