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THE PROJECT

The project is located at Captains Mountain in the Toowoomba Region of Queensland, approximately 10km south west of Millmerran and 80km south west of Toowoomba. The proposed development area is located near the Millmerran Power Station and accessible via the Gore Highway.

Wind speed is the key driver for energy generation, so it is very important to place turbines in areas of high and consistent winds in order to achieve the lowest cost of power generation. The Captains Mountain area is considered to be an area with a strong, consistent and viable wind resource.

The project will consist of up to 56 turbine locations with a combined maximum capacity of up to 380MW. The project may be built in one or more stages.

The project will likely utilise Vestas V162-6.8 MW or larger turbines. These turbines will have a hub height of around 149m and a maximum blade tip height of up to 230m.

The project will be assessed by the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, through the State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA). A development application will need to be lodged to SARA and assessed against State code 23: Wind farm development of the State Development Assessment Provisions. The development application will be prepared by a qualified independent 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.

We are committed to positive engagement for all the stages of the wind farm’s lifecycle – from site selection to decommissioning.

We will continue to engage with local councils, landowners, neighbours and surrounding communities as early as possible, keeping people informed and involving them in decisions they can influence.

WIND ENERGY

Driven by the urgency of climate change, Australia and the world are transitioning from traditional fossil fuel generation. Wind is a clean and inexhaustible resource that generates zero pollution or carbon emissions during operation.

Wind energy is now cheaper than new generation from coal and natural gas. Together with solar and other renewable energy projects, wind energy is helping to drive down the cost of wholesale electricity.

As of year end 2020, there was approximately 7,400 MW of wind capacity installed across Australia. Wind farms accounted for nearly 10% of the total electricity generated in the country in 2020. 

Compared to traditional energy sources such as coal and gas, wind farms:

  • require no invasive mining, extraction or burning of fossil fuels
  • emit no greenhouse gas during operations 
  • emit no fine particle pollution, sulphur dioxide, or oxides of nitrogen
  • require no water during operation 
  • have limited environmental impacts from construction.

All emissions generated across the turbine lifecycle are offset in the first year of plant operation.

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 Captains Mountain Wind Farm will be built using Vestas wind turbines. More than 145,000 MW of Vestas turbines have been installed in 85 countries around the world, accounting for almost 1 in 5 of all turbines installed worldwide.

Wind farms are considered to be one of the cheapest forms of new electricity generation, along with solar energy, and can produce energy at a significantly lower cost than fossil fuel generation. The project is not dependent on government subsidies for construction or operation.

PROJECT IMPACTS

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.

Vestas 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 across wet and dry seasons.

Based on the results of the surveys, Vestas 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 Development Application and will be assessed by the QLD State Assessment and Referral Agency as part of the project’s development consent.

Vestas will consult with local Aboriginal groups and other local stakeholders during project development and design. Vestas will also engage a specialist consultant to assess potential impacts related to cultural heritage and how to mitigate these impacts. At all times, the project will be developed in compliance with laws regarding the protection of cultural heritage.

The project will deliver significant benefits to the region and local communities, including:

  • Significant investment in the Millmerran community and surrounding region
  • Opportunities for local contractors and businesses
  • Up to 200 new jobs expected to be created during construction
  • Around 10 long-term service and maintenance jobs created during project operation
  • Development of new skilled labour in the region within the growing renewable energy industry

As development progresses, Vestas will also gather input from the local community and stakeholders to best understand the needs and appropriate structure for a community benefit fund to be associated with this project.

The project will create around 200 new jobs during construction. Around 10 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.

Captains Mountain Wind Farm plans to work in partnership with the local community to design a community benefits fund that delivers tangible and positive results. This scheme is intended to last for the life of the project. Further details will be provided as the project develops.

PROJECT CONSTRUCTION

We expect to begin construction in 2024, subject to development consent and grid connection approval. Construction will probably take approximately 24 months to complete, with the turbines erected over a 12-month period followed by testing and commissioning.

We understand that water is a critically important issue for the Millmerran community. During construction, water will be required for concrete batching and potentially for dust suppression. Vestas 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.

Vestas 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 Brisbane through to Toowoomba via the Warrego Highway (National Highway A2), and then from Toowoomba to the project site via the Gore Highway (National Highway A39).

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 Development Application which will be submitted to the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDMIP) for assessment and approval.

PROJECT OPERATIONS

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.

Wind turbine movement creates sound; however, people generally find they can have a conversation at the wind turbine base without having to raise their voices. 

The noise impact from a wind turbine will depend on wind speed, wind direction, topography, vegetation, and the distance from the turbine.

PROJECT DECOMMISSIONING

The wind farm will have a design life of 30 years. At the end of this period, it may be possible to replace some equipment and extend the project for a further operating period, though this would require a new development approval. 

The project will be decommissioned at the end of wind farm life.  Decommissioning of wind farm infrastructure at the end of project life will be a legal condition of the development consent. In addition, contracts with landowners also require that wind turbines and other infrastructure are removed at the end of the lease term.

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.

At the end of its operational life, the wind farm will be deconstructed in accordance with the Queensland Wind Farm State Code and supporting planning guideline. Decommissioning will involve de-energising, disconnecting, dismantling, demolishing and removing the wind turbines and other operational infrastructure (e.g. maintenance buildings, substations and power lines). We will also rehabilitate roads and fencing in consultation with host landowners.

The typical Vestas wind turbine is around 88% recyclable. This includes the steel which forms the tower and the aluminium and copper used in electrical equipment within the turbine. Vestas has announced a goal of achieving zero-waste wind turbines by 2040.

Blades are constructed of carbon and glass fibre composites, polyurethane foam and epoxy adhesives. Turbine blades are the most challenging component to recycle, but there are already a number of technologies available for recycling of blades, and no turbine blades will be disposed in the local landfill. 

Vestas has committed to not landfill any blades in Europe by 2025, which means we are now upscaling and investing in existing and new recycling solutions that will benefit other regions as well, including Australia.

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