NEW GEN­ER­A­TION

MT EMER­ALD Wind FARM

The Australian Energy Review - - FRONT PAGE - El­iz­a­beth Fabri

DE­SCRIBED by Ratch Aus­tralia’s con­struc­tion di­rec­tor Rene Kuypers as one of the “most chal­leng­ing” projects he has worked on, the 180 megawatt (MW) Mount Emer­ald Wind Farm has in­volved a vast amount of plan­ning and preparation.

The green­fields project it­self sits on a 900m el­e­vated site, sur­rounded by sparse nat­u­ral scrub­land and rocky out­crops that will soon be home to the largest wind farm ever seen in Queens­land, with tur­bines stand­ing more than 30 sto­ries tall.

The orig­i­nal plan in­volved the erec­tion of 75 tur­bines, but af­ter in­dus­try and com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion, 63 tur­bines were ap­proved for the site and 53 were agreed to be built.

In late 2016, early con­struc­tion works be­gan; and a num­ber of site chal­lenges fol­lowed.

On top of nav­i­gat­ing the site’s steep and un­du­lat­ing ter­rain and tight en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions, the re­gion’s his­tory as a World War II mor­tar train­ing fa­cil­ity was brought to the sur­face when a small num­ber of un­ex­ploded de­vices were un­cov­ered dur­ing earth­works.

Mr Kuypers said dur­ing clear­ance sur­veys of the area, spe­cialised con­sul­tants iden­ti­fied six con­firmed un­ex­ploded ord­nance (bombs), as well as 150 ex­ploded or rem­nant items, pre­dom­i­nantly mor­tar tail fins.

“Strict pro­to­cols were fol­lowed to al­low the de­vice to be re­moved or dis­posed of be­fore works can con­tinue in the area,” he said.

“Pro­to­cols in­cluded es­tab­lish­ing an ex­clu­sion zone, de­fence depart­ment in­spec­tion and if re­quired dis­posal/ re­moval, fol­lowed by fi­nal in­spec­tion and re-open­ing.”

The com­pany also had to en­sure the nat­u­ral her­itage of the re­gion was pre­served; col­lect­ing 1000 arte­facts to be an­a­lysed and re­turned to site, as well as im­ple­ment­ing a num­ber of mea­sures to pro­tect lo­cal flora and fauna.

“Cairns based en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tants pain­stak­ingly as­sessed all con­struc­tion zones to iden­tify en­dan­gered plants,” Mr Kuypers said.

“These plants are avoided wher­ever pos­si­ble, how­ever in some cases ecol­o­gists are hav­ing great suc­cess in re­lo­cat­ing them to new homes away from con­struc­tion.”

The con­sul­tant also placed spe­cialised traps across the des­ig­nated con­struc­tion zones to cap­ture any north­ern quolls within the site.

“The ini­tial es­ti­mate of the quoll pop­u­la­tion on site was around 55, how­ever, work to date has seen 90 in­di­vid­u­als cap­tured and col­lared with all seem­ingly go­ing about their busi­ness in an undis­turbed man­ner,” he said.

Con­struc­tion be­gins

With earth­works hur­dles now be­hind them, Ratch and its con­trac­tors were fo­cused on ramp­ing up con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties on site.

Global wind en­ergy leader Ves­tas is re­spon­si­ble for con­struc­tion of the project along with ma­jor sub­con­trac­tors Con­sol­i­dated Power Projects (CPP) and Civil & Al­lied Tech­ni­cal Con­struc­tion (Cat­con).

In Au­gust, the project reached an im­por­tant mile­stone when the first of the 53, 800-tonne foun­da­tions were poured.

A month later on 20 Sep­tem­ber, the first ship­ment of freight for the tower sec­tions ar­rived at Cairns Port, fol­lowed by the ar­rival of the first wind tur­bines blades, weigh­ing 16 tonnes each.

The blades will be trans­ported di­rectly from the wharf to a newly con­structed project cargo lay­down area, pur­pose-built by Ports North to ac­com­mo­date the com­po­nents be­fore they are trans­ported by road to the wind­farm site.

Mr Kuypers said the project fea­tured two types of wind tur­bines from Ves­tas’ 3MW plat­form, Ves­tas V112 and V117 mod­els, to take ad­van­tage of the site’s spe­cific char­ac­ter­is­tics.

“Ves­tas’ 3MW plat­form is de­signed for a range of wind con­di­tions, and is highly re­garded for de­liv­er­ing in­dus­try-lead­ing re­li­a­bil­ity, ser­vice­abil­ity and ex­cep­tional en­ergy cap­ture,” he said.

“Each tur­bine fea­tures a three-blade ro­tor con­trolled by a mi­cro­pro­ces­sor pitch con­trol sys­tem, and based on the pre­vail­ing wind con­di­tions, the blades are con­tin­u­ously po­si­tioned to op­ti­mise the pitch an­gle.

“All tur­bines of the 3MW plat­form have an in­creased nom­i­nal power and ad­vanced sound re­duc­tion modes to en­sure noise is kept to a min­i­mum and well be­low the govern­ment man­dated lim­its.”

QLD Act­ing Premier and Trea­surer Cur­tis Pitt said the new ar­rivals would be fol­lowed by back-to-back ship­ments over the com­ing months, with an es­ti­mated 185,000 tonnes of cargo to be de­liv­ered.

“The Mt Emer­ald Wind Farm project rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant boost to our lo­cal econ­omy, es­pe­cially for the con­trac­tors, sup­pli­ers, trans­port, and lo­gis­tics com­pa­nies in­volved,” Mr Pitt said.

Pow­er­link will also build a ded­i­cated 275kv sub­sta­tion to con­nect the wind farm to the net­work.

The power com­pany was now mo­bilised on site, un­der­tak­ing preparation works to con­nect the wind farm to the ex­ist­ing trans­mis­sion net­work via the Woree to Chalumbin trans­mis­sion line.

Er­gon En­ergy has also agreed to pur­chase all of the elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated by the project through to the end of 2030.

In­vest­ing in North QLD

Mount Emer­ald wind farm is one of 20 re­new­able projects that have been com­mit­ted to or un­der con­struc­tion in QLD, to­talling 1800MW and de­liv­er­ing $3.4 bil­lion of in­vest­ment.

“Re­new­able en­ergy is now the cheap­est and quick­est way to de­liver new gen­er­a­tion, which is why we’re fo­cus­ing on se­cur­ing the next wave of large-scale re­new­able en­ergy projects in Queens­land,” QLD En­ergy minister Mark Bailey said.

Ratch Aus­tralia ex­ec­u­tive gen­eral man­ager busi­ness de­vel­op­ment An­thony Yeates said given the State’s strong push for re­new­ables, there was “a clear busi­ness case” for Ratch to in­vest in re­new­able gen­er­a­tion in QLD, par­tic­u­larly in the North.

“The re­gion is sup­port­ive of sus­tain­able en­ergy be­cause of its need to pro­tect its world renowned nat­u­ral as­sets,” Mr Yeates said.

“One of the best things we have found with our op­er­a­tions in North Queens­land is that it has al­ways been easy to re­cruit peo­ple to work there, es­pe­cially from in­ter­state.

“I guess it is the cli­mate and the lower costs of liv­ing in the re­gion com­pared to other ma­jor Aus­tralian ci­ties that are the ma­jor draw­cards.”

Mr Yeates said the Mount Emer­ald Wind Farm started off as an idea by Port Ba­jool’s John Mor­ris to bring cleaner en­ergy to one of the world’s most sus­tain­abil­ity con­scious re­gions and he was “pleased to have helped to make it a re­al­ity.”

“[The project] has taken a huge team ef­fort from many dif­fer­ent par­ties over a long pe­riod, and we are proud to be de­liv­er­ing a project which is not only low car­bon but which will mean­ing­fully add to North Queens­land’s en­ergy se­cu­rity,” he said.

Mr Yeates said he be­lieved the lo­cal gen­er­a­tion would “help re­duce elec­tric­ity prices by min­imis­ing costs as­so­ci­ated with trans­mis­sion of power over long dis­tances from fur­ther south”.

“The project will in­su­late the re­gional elec­tric­ity mar­ket from fluc­tu­a­tions in fuel prices by in­creas­ing the di­ver­sity of the en­ergy sys­tem,” Mr Yeates said.

“It is also hoped that we will en­cour­age a pos­i­tive in­vest­ment en­vi­ron­ment for fu­ture projects that will help grow a lo­cal re­new­able gen­er­a­tion net­work to in­clude var­i­ous forms of so­lar, hy­dro and bio­fu­els.”

All im­ages: Ratch Aus­tralia.

Civil con­trac­tors pre­pare the foun­da­tion for one of 53 tur­bines at the Mt Emer­ald Wind Farm.

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