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Infrastructure stories

Tasmania set to ride the wind

Edition 185_SimpsonSmithLrg

The Tasmanian economy looks set for an exciting wind ride following the announcement of four major new wind farm projects.

Total investment could exceed $2 billion, around 400 turbines could be built and resultant generation of up to 1,200 MW could be around four times the State’s present wind output.

The transformative developments would be a big step towards the recently articulated vision of Tasmania as the nation’s "renewable energy battery".

In June, projects were announced at Wild Cattle Hill, in the central highlands, and on Robbins Island and Jims Plains, in the north-west.

On 4 July, Cabinet met in Queenstown to ratify a supply agreement for the Westcoast Wind project on a cattle farm at Granville Harbour.

The Robbins Island/Jims Plain projects, together, would create the biggest wind farm in the southern hemisphere.

On land used by the Hammond family for wagyu beef production, it will be driven by UPC Renewables Australia, a specially set up subsidiary of one of the world’s largest wind-farm businesses.

While UPC’s initial announcement said the project was subject to the commissioning of a second Bass Strait inter-connector cable, ensuing comments by the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, suggested this would not be an impediment.

Mr Turnbull said there was a strong case for the second cable and it was under consideration for funding from Canberra.

Timelines known at this stage are:

September 2017
  • Construction starts at Wild Cattle Hill
  • Proposed start at Granville Harbour
  • Jims Plain is investment ready
  • Robbins Island is investment ready
  • Granville Harbour commissioned
  • Wild Cattle Hill commissioned

The 49-turbine Wild Cattle Hill wind farm near Waddamana involves a $300 million investment by China-linked Goldwind Energy and its project partner, local GBE Aurora Energy.

It will provide more than 150 construction jobs, about 10 on-going jobs and generate enough energy to serve 60,000 homes.

The Minister for Energy, Matthew Groom, said the project, alone, would increase Tasmania’s wind-generation capacity by nearly half and would strengthen the case for a second inter-connector which would provide a more secure link to the interstate energy market by backing up the existing Basslink cable.

Mr Groom said: “This is a 144 MW project of new installed generation capacity for Tasmania, so very important in terms of delivering clean energy for Tasmanians and also into the national market.”

Mr Groom said Wild Cattle Hill represented a significant step towards the State Government’s energy vision.

“This announcement comes just weeks after the Prime Minister and the Premier announced plans to consider additional investment in pumped hydro and other upgrades to boost Tasmania’s renewable energy output,” Mr Groom said.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to capitalise on the building momentum for more renewable energy generation and the Hodgman Government is seizing it.”

In the north-west, the Hammond family began investigating the feasibility of a large wind farm on the west side of 10,184ha Robbins Island and on a 380ha site at Jims Plain nearly 16 years ago.

They have collected more than 12 years of wind data that show the Roaring 40s sites to be among the best in the world.

Environmental studies and financial modelling were completed before uncertainty and volatility in Federal Government energy policy and an impasse over transmission infrastructure led to the project being mothballed.

Early this year, improving conditions encouraged the Hammonds to re-engage with US-based UPC Renewables. An agreement was signed in June.

The Chief Executive of UPC Renewables Australia, Anton Rohner, said: “The Robbins Island project itself is a very large, isolated site and, together with Jims Plain, it has some of the best proven wind resources in the world.

“It is close to the Australian Energy Market operator’s proposed entry point for a second inter-connector between Tasmania and Victoria.

“The … projects, together with Tasmania’s hydro assets and other new renewable energy projects, will assist in making a second inter-connector a dispatchable and significant renewable energy generator into the National Electricity Market.”

The company has initiated a study into the feasibility of connecting directly to the Victorian grid from Robbins Island.

“With the changes in the energy market and potential viable transmission solutions available, this project is set to proceed,” Mr Rohner said.

The two-farm project is expected to cost between $1.2 billion and $1.6 billion, providing about 250 construction jobs and more than 50 operational jobs.

“The technology to be deployed at the site will be mostly wind energy, but the option of additional solar and other non-hydro based energy-storage technologies is also contemplated,” Mr Rohner said.

“From here, we have further resource and environmental monitoring work to undertake, with the development application processes and transmission studies commencing.”

Oliver Yates, the inaugural Chief Executive of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (a $10 billion fund set up by the Australian Government to reduce emissions), has joined UPC Australia as an Executive Director.

Mr Yates said the project had the scale and wind resource to become a major national contributor.

“Operating more than 90 per cent of the time, once linked to Victoria it is highly complementary to the National Electricity Market,” he said.

After hearing an address by proponent John Hammond, the Vice President of the Burnie Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ian Jones, said: “It’s now time for the State Government to really push for the second Bass Strait inter-connector, bring it across the strait on to Robbins Island then connect to the proposed site at Jims Plains, which is adjacent to the Woolnorth wind farm, plus connect to the Granville Harbour project.

“The second inter-connector may even make the mothballed TasWind project on King Island viable again.

“In 10 years, green energy could become Tasmania’s biggest … earner.”

Meanwhile, Westcoast Wind will supply Hydro Tasmania with 360 gw/hours of electricity and renewable energy certificates each year, under a provisional agreement signed after long negotiations.

The project, on a cattle property owned by Royce Smith, will create about 200 jobs in construction and provide 99 MW of power, with potential to increase to 112 MW, subject to further approvals.

It will also create up to 50 wind-tower manufacturing jobs at Haywards in Launceston.

At 99 MW, it would provide carbon dioxide emissions abatement equivalent to removing more than 30,000 cars from the roads.

The conditional supply deal opens the way for the proponents to sign up a major investor.

Most of the State’s existing 300+ MW of wind-power generation comes from joint ventures between Hydro Tasmania and Shenhua Clean Energy of China.

The Musselroe Bay Wind Farm has 56 turbines and a capacity of 168MW

The Studland Bay Wind Farm has 25 turbines and a capacity of 75MW

The Bluff Point Wind Farm has 37 smaller turbines and a capacity of 65MW

Hydro Tasmania wholly owns a small wind farm at Huxley Hill on King Island, which feeds energy into its highly regarded King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project.

In 2014, Hydro Tasmania mothballed a $2 billion TasWind proposal for 200 turbines on King Island generating 600 MW of power. The total investment would have included the project’s own Bass Strait inter-connector.

Image courtesy of the ABC

4 July 2017, Edition 185

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