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The Winterbourne Wind Farm is located to the north and east of Walcha township in the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales, approximately 425 kilometres by road from Sydney. The proposed development area is bounded by Thunderbolts Way and the Oxley Highway to the west, the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park to the south and east, and the Salisbury Plains to the north
The project will consist of up to 126 turbine locations with a combined maximum capacity of up to 700 MW. The project may be built in one or more stages.
The project will likely utilise Vestas V-162 5.6 MW or larger turbines. These turbines will have a hub height of around 155m and a maximum blade tip height of approximately 250m.
The project will be assessed by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) as a State Significant Development (SSD) under Division 4.7 of Part 4 of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). This assessment will be made on the basis of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), to be prepared by a qualified independent environmental consultant.
In addition, the project may be referred to the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy for assessment and approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, if required.
WinterbourneWind will seek to minimise the impact to local flora and fauna by designing the project to avoid areas of high conservation significance. Furthermore, during construction, we will adopt best practice control measures to minimise impacts to biodiversity.
As part of project development, we will engage specialist consultants to undertake detailed flora and fauna surveys of the site. Both desktop and field surveys will be conducted to establish the ecological attributes of the land. Field surveys will be conducted in spring and summer in accordance with the NSW Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM).
Based on the results of the surveys, WinterbourneWind will design the project to minimise impacts to flora and fauna. The results of the surveys and proposed mitigation measures will be documented in the project’s Environmental Impact Statement and will be assessed by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment as part of the project’s development consent.
WinterbourneWind will engage a specialist consultant to conduct a cultural heritage assessment, and will also consult with local Aboriginal groups and other local stakeholders during project development and design. At all times, WinterbourneWind will comply with laws regarding the protection of cultural heritage.
Several studies have examined the potential impacts of wind farms on property values, including Review of the Impact of Wind Farms on Property Values (Urbis, 2016) available here:
and Assessment of the Impact of Wind Farms on Surrounding Land Values in Australia (Preston Rowe Paterson, 2013) available here:
These studies have found no evidence to conclude that wind farms can be linked to adverse impacts on property values.
Most wind farms have been built in rural communities where livestock grazing is common, and no adverse impacts have been reported. Livestock have often been observed using the turbine towers for shade in the summer and for shelter from wind and rain.
Wind farms complement grazing and other agricultural activities. The turbines occupy only a small amount of land, and landowners can continue their practices whilst the wind farm is operating. The income provided to landowners hosting wind farm infrastructure can help make farms more resilient to the impacts of drought or bushfires.
According to the World Wind Energy Association, 597 gigawatts (GW) of wind energy capacity had been installed through the end of 2018, representing several hundred thousand wind turbines globally. Numerous reviews of research literature conducted by leading health and research organisations from all over the world have concluded that there is no published evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects.
In February 2015, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Centre (NHMRC) released a statement providing advice to the community and policy makers on the issue. The NHMRC concluded that there is currently no consistent evidence that wind farms cause adverse health effects in humans. The NHMRC statement is available here:
We understand that water is a critically important issue for the Walcha community. During construction, water will be required for concrete batching and potentially for dust suppression. WinterbourneWind will source water from local supplies, subject to availability and within the constraints of the development consent for the project.
Once the wind farm is constructed, water will only be required to meet domestic/personal requirements for maintenance staff.
Wind farms are considered to be one of the cheapest form of new electricity generation, along with solar energy, and can produce energy at a significantly lower cost than coal or gas-fired power stations. The project is not dependent on government subsidies for construction or operation.
As part of an innovative community ownership and revenue sharing arrangement, turbine hosts, easement owners and project neighbours will be invited to become involved in a 5% project stake held by a special purpose vehicle (WalchaWind Pty Ltd). In turn, WalchaWind has committed to sharing the benefits it receives 50%:50% with the broader Walcha community. We believe this model will deliver durable financial and social benefits to the community and ensure the long-term success of the project.
In addition, the project will deliver significant benefits to the New England region and local communities, including:
- Significant investment in the New England region
- Opportunities for local contractors and businesses
- Up to 300 new jobs expected to be created during construction
- Around 16 long-term service and maintenance jobs created during project operation
- Development of new skilled labour in the region within the growing renewable energy industry
The project will create up to 300 new jobs during construction. Around 16 long-term service and maintenance jobs will be created during project operation. Construction and operation of the project will require a range of skills including engineering, trades (electrical, mechanical, construction), transport, building material providers, equipment operators, consultants and administrative staff.
WinterbourneWind will survey local and regional roads during project development to identify a suitable transport route to the project site. Currently, we expect that wind turbines will be transported from the Port of Newcastle through Singleton and Muswellbrook on Highway A15 and then up the New England Highway past Tamworth and up to Bendemeer. Further engineering evaluation will be required to determine the best option for transporting equipment from there to the project site. We will engage with Council, local stakeholders, and the broader community to solicit feedback about proposed route options. The final proposed route, and any required road upgrades, will be described in the Environmental Impact Statement which will be submitted to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment for assessment and approval.
Wind turbines are designed to convert wind into mechanical energy through rotation of the turbine blades. The mechanical energy is converted into electricity via a generator in the nacelle, which is the housing at the top of the wind turbine tower. Energy generated in the nacelle is transformed to high voltage and sent to the grid.
The energy generated by a wind turbine is proportional to the swept area of the blades; in other words, the longer the turbine blades, the more energy a turbine will generate. In addition, the generation potential of a turbine is proportional to the cube of the wind speed. In fact, a doubling of the wind speed will potentially generate 8x as much energy!
Because wind speed is so important to energy generation, it is very important to place turbines in areas of high and consistent winds in order to achieve the lowest cost of power generation. In this respect, the Walcha area is considered to be one of the best wind resource areas in NSW, and is within the New England Energy Zone which was identified as one of three potential priority energy zones in the state in the NSW Government Submission on AEMO’s Integrated System Plan (March 2018).
The wind turbines proposed for the Winterbourne Wind Farm will have a hub height of around 155m and a maximum tip height of around 250m.
The Winterbourne Wind Farm will be built using Vestas wind turbines. Over 105 GW of Vestas turbines have been installed around the world, accounting for around 1 in 6 of all turbines installed worldwide.
We expect to begin construction in late 2022 or early 2023, subject to development consent and grid connection approval. Construction will probably take around 18 months to complete. We expect the project to be ready around the same time that the Liddell Power Station is retired. This will help place downwards pressure on NSW energy prices.
Wind farms are typically assumed to operate for 25-30 years. At the end of this period, it may be possible to replace some of the equipment and extend the project for a further period (this will require a new development approval). In any case, at the end of the project life, WinterbourneWind will be responsible for removing the wind farm infrastructure and rehabilitating the site in accordance with the conditions of development consent.