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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 119 turbine locations with a combined capacity of around 700 MW. The project may be built in one or more stages.
The project will likely utilise Vestas V-162 6.2 MW turbines. These turbines will have a hub height of around 149m and a maximum blade tip height of approximately 230m.
The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) will assess the project 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 has been referred to the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) for assessment and approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.
WinterbourneWind will seek to minimise the impact to local flora and fauna by designing the project to avoid areas of high conservation significance. During construction, we will adopt best practice control measures to minimise impacts to biodiversity.
As part of project development, we have engaged specialist consultants to undertake detailed flora and fauna surveys of the site. Both desktop and field surveys have been conducted to establish the ecological attributes of the land.
The findings of the biodiversity assessment and proposed mitigation measures will be presented 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.
Together with a specialist consultant, WinterbourneWind has completed cultural heritage surveys across the proposed project area. These surveys have been conducted in consultation with local Aboriginal groups and have identified a number of culturally significant sites. The Aboriginal and Cultural Heritage Assessment Report will be included in the project EIS and will be available for public review and comment. We will ensure cultural heritage is protected and will continue to consult with Aboriginal stakeholders during project construction.
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.
The majority of wind farms are developed on agricultural land and wind turbines are very much compatible with existing farming operations. Turbines occupy only a small amount of land, and landowners can continue normal grazing or cropping activities. Livestock has often been seen using turbine towers for shade and shelter from wind and rain. The income provided to landowners hosting wind farm infrastructure can help make farms more resilient to the impacts of droughts, fires and commodity price fluctuations.
Numerous reviews of research literature conducted by leading health and research organisations worldwide, including Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), have concluded there is no published evidence to link wind turbines with adverse health effects.
In February 2015, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Centre (NHMRC) released a statement providing advice to the community and policymakers on the issue.
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.
In an innovative benefits sharing model, WalchaWind Pty Ltd — a private company owned by a group of local landowners — holds 5% of the project. WalchaWind has committed to sharing the benefits it receives with project neighbours and the broader Walcha community, providing durable financial and social benefits.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 400 new jobs expected to be created during construction
- Around 15 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 400 new jobs during construction. Around 15 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 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 to Bendemeer. From Bendemeer, the preferred route will utilise Oxley Highway to Saleyards Road, Darjeeling Road, Thunderbolts Way and Jamieson Street, thereby avoiding central Walcha. We will engage with Council, local stakeholders, and the broader community 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 convert the natural movement of air into mechanical energy through rotation of the turbine blades. This mechanical energy is converted into electricity, which is sent to the electrical grid.
The Winterbourne Wind Farm will be built using Vestas wind turbines. More than 136 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 2023, subject to development consent and grid connection approval. Construction will probably take around 24 months to complete.
Wind farms are typically assumed to operate for 25-30 years. It may be possible to replace some equipment and extend the project for a further period and this would require a new development approval. Requirements for decommissioning are set out in contracts with landowners and will be a condition of the project development consent.
At the end of the project life, the wind farm owner will be fully responsible for plant decommissioning, including removing the wind farm infrastructure and rehabilitating the site in compliance with the conditions of development consent.
“Energy payback” is the time required for a wind farm to produce as much energy as it consumes over the full life cycle of the plant, considering manufacturing of components, transport, construction, operation and decommissioning.
For Vestas turbines, the typical “breakeven” point, where energy output exceeds energy required, is between 6 to 9 months, depending on the wind speed and other site-specific factors. This means that a typical wind farm becomes carbon neutral in less than one year of operation.
By comparison, a coal-fired power station always consumes more energy than it generates, and never achieves an energy payback.
“Return on Energy” looks at the amount of energy paid back to society versus the energy needed in the lifetime of that turbine. Over the life cycle of a typical Vestas project, the wind farm will return 38 times more energy than it consumed. That means that when 1 kWh is invested in a wind energy solution, you get 38 kWh in return. For coal, however, if you invest 1 kWh you typically get 0.28 kWh in return.
Read more about the sustainability of Vestas wind farms and turbines as well as comparisons of energy payback and return on energy for other power sources.
Currently, the average Vestas wind turbine is 85% recyclable. This means that 85% of the weight of the turbine can be fully recycled or re-used. While recycling of turbine blades has been challenging, Vestas recently announced new technology that will soon enable full recycling of turbine blades. This technology will help Vestas achieve our goal of zero-waste wind turbines by 2040.