How can we help you?
Where is the project?
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.
How big is the project?
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.
How big will the wind turbines be?
The project will likely utilise Vestas V162-6.2 MW turbines. These turbines will have a hub height of around 149m and a maximum blade tip height of approximately 230m.
Are new roads required for a wind farm?
WinterbourneWind will construct new unsealed access roads linking existing Council roads to the turbine locations. In many cases, the new roads will involve upgrading existing farm tracks, which will also help landowners with farm operations, and potentially emergency responders in the event of bush fires or other emergencies. In all cases, the new access roads will be designed with the objective of minimising impacts to existing vegetation.
The new access roads will be unsealed but will be constructed to allow for transport of heavy materials and equipment during construction, and to allow for long-term operation of the wind farm. In addition, WinterbourneWind will work with Walcha Council to upgrade some existing Council roads as required to support project traffic requirements.
Are transmission lines required for the wind farm?
The project will include one main transmission line, approximately 45 km long, which connects the wind farm to the existing electrical grid. The line will be an overhead 330 kilovolt (kV) line, built using steel lattice towers. The new line will connect into the existing Tamworth-Armidale 330kV line, approximately 7 km south of Uralla, NSW.
Within the wind farm, the turbines will be connected to each other and to the substations primarily via underground 33kV cabling. The cabling will generally run adjacent to the proposed new access roads.
How many substations will be built for the project?
The project will include two new 33/330kV substations within the wind farm area, which convert the lower voltage generated by the turbines to high voltage which can be connected into the existing grid.
In addition, a new switchyard will be built at the proposed connection point where the new transmission line will connect into the existing Tamworth-Armidale 330kV line. The substations, switchyard and transmission line will be constructed in parallel with the wind farm.
Why has this project taken so long?
The project dates back to 2001, when a group of local landowners conceived of a wind farm in the Walcha area. However, Vestas has been involved with the project since 2019.
The planning process for wind farms in NSW is rigorous. It requires detailed assessment of potential noise, visual, biodiversity, traffic, cultural heritage, aviation and other impacts. Biodiversity surveys need to be conducted over every season and across multiple years to ensure the potential impacts to vegetation, habitat, flora, fauna and migratory species are understood. Technical requirements for connecting a power station into the grid network are complex and require highly specialized modelling and negotiation with the grid owner (TransGrid) and Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). Finally, a project of this size requires the financial and technical due diligence of lenders, investors and energy buyers (offtakers) to ensure the proposal is commercially viable.
Subject to development consent, we expect to start construction in 2025, and would expect construction to last approximately two years, followed by 3-4 months of project commissioning. Based on this timeframe, we would expect the project to begin commercial operations in mid-2027.
Does the project require subsidies?
The project is not dependent on government subsidies for construction or operation. Wind farms are considered one of the cheapest forms of new electricity generation, along with solar energy, and can produce energy at a significantly lower cost than coal or gas-fired power stations.
How do wind turbines work?
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.
What technology will be used for the project?
The Winterbourne Wind Farm will be built using Vestas wind turbines. More than 166,000 MW of Vestas turbines have been installed in 88 countries around the world, accounting for almost 1 in 5 of all turbines installed worldwide.
What is the carbon footprint of a wind farm?
Wind farms have significantly lower carbon footprints than other electricity-generating sources. A typical Vestas wind turbine emits around 1% of the carbon emissions per kWh of electricity that would be generated by a coal-fired power plant.
How does energy payback work?
‘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 the manufacturing of components, transport, construction, operation and decommissioning.
For Vestas turbines, the typical ‘break even’ 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.
What is the Return on Energy of a wind farm?
“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 0.34 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.
WIND FARM DEVELOPMENT
What activities has WinterbourneWind undertaken during the development stage of the wind project?
Activities during the development stage of the wind farm have included:
- discussions with host landowners
- installation of wind monitoring equipment such as masts or remote sensing units
- identification of potential wind turbine locations, and design of access routes and electrical infrastructure
- consultation with local councils and State/Federal government stakeholders
- engagement with the local community and project neighbours
- environmental impact assessment, including potential biodiversity, noise, visual, traffic, socioeconomic, bushfire, heritage, aviation and other impacts
- preparation of State and Federal permitting applications and documentation
- grid connection studies in accordance with requirements set by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and the local network service provider (Transgrid)
- financial modelling
- project funding and investment decisions.
Project development is complex and requires continuous adjustment to meet the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s stringent environmental requirements and the challenging technical requirements of connecting a power station to the grid network.
How is the project being assessed?
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) 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 take into account the findings of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which was lodged with DPE in late 2022 and was on public exhibition between November 2022 and January 2023. The EIS was prepared by a qualified independent environmental consultant supported by specialist sub-consultants who completed detailed technical assessments of potential noise, visual, biodiversity, transport and other environmental impacts.
In addition, the project has been referred to the Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) for assessment and approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.
What has Winterbourne Wind Farm done to engage the community?
Winterbourne Wind Farm is committed to open and transparent engagement throughout the project. The team has been actively engaging with landholders, neighbours, the Walcha community, government at all levels and local businesses since mid-2019.
We have appreciated the opportunities to discuss the need for the project, its scale and dynamics, and the community benefits.
Information about the proposed project is available through several avenues, including the dedicated website, an 1800 number, a dedicated email, a Facebook page and a LinkedIn page.
We have hosted six public information sessions. In addition, we have provided 11 13 project update newsletters via direct mail and the local paper, conducted multiple surveys, and met or talked individually with project neighbours.
Our Community Consultative Committee, established in March 2021, has met seven times between March 2021 and August 2022.
We have also appreciated the time given to us by local MPs and Walcha Council.
In total, we have logged almost 2000 stakeholder interactions on this project, and we will continue our commitment to community engagement as the project moves forward.
How have First Nations People been engaged?
WinterbourneWind has followed the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Consultation Requirements (ACHCRs) for proponents developed by the Office of Environment and Heritage (now Heritage NSW). Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) for the project, including the Amaroo Local Aboriginal Land Council, have been consulted extensively since 2020 and were actively involved with a comprehensive heritage field survey program.
Will there be an impact to flora and fauna?
The proposed development must satisfy the stringent biodiversity impact assessment requirements of both the NSW Government (via the Environmental Impact Statement) and the Australian Government (through the EPBC process).
The project site mainly consists of exotic grasslands with sparse woodland and scattered trees. Extensive flora and fauna studies have been undertaken since 2019 to identify, avoid, and minimise potential biodiversity impacts.
Vegetation clearing will be offset through the NSW Biodiversity Offset Scheme. In addition, a Bird and Bat Management Plan will be developed before construction to define measures for reducing potential impact on avifauna during project construction and operation.
The project layout has been designed to minimise impacts to biodiversity by establishing infrastructure and roads to avoid areas of high conservation significance. The findings of the biodiversity assessment and proposed mitigation measures are presented in the EIS.
Will there be an impact to cultural heritage?
We will ensure cultural heritage is protected and will continue to consult with Aboriginal stakeholders during project construction.
Together with a specialist consultant and with assistance from Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs), WinterbourneWind completed cultural heritage surveys to identify items and locations of cultural significance within the proposed project area. Three field surveys were conducted over 27 days in July 2020, November 2020 and February 2021, totalling over 600 hours of survey effort. These surveys identified 16 culturally significant sites, including 12 artefact scatters, two culturally-modified trees, one quarry site and one engraving site. No evidence of human burials or skeletal material were recorded.
All identified sites have been afforded high cultural value, and two were identified as having high scientific value. Of the 16 sites, five are outside the project footprint and will not be impacted. For the remaining sites, Vestas will ensure that the sites are either protected (eg fenced off), avoided where possible by modification to the project design, or if impacts are likely, managed appropriately in consultation with the RAPs, prior to project construction.
The findings of the cultural heritage investigation are presented in an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment Report (ACHAR), included in the EIS and made available for public review and comment.
Will turbines affect property values?
Several studies commissioned by the NSW and Victorian governments have examined potential impacts of wind farms on property values and have found no evidence that wind farms lower rural property values, including the Assessment of the Impact of Wind Farms on Surrounding Land Values in Australia (Preston Rowe Paterson, 2013) available here:
Do wind farms impact livestock or farming operations?
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.
What is known about potential cumulative impacts of projects in the renewable energy zone?
We have assessed the cumulative impact of the wind farm according to NSW Department of Planning and Environment guidelines. Given the uncertainty in the potential delivery timeframes of other projects, it is difficult to assess the extent of cumulative impacts. However, potential cumulative impacts may include traffic impacts if multiple projects are being constructed simultaneously and socioeconomic impacts (e.g. workforce requirements and accommodation challenges).
What is the economic impact?
The proposed project will create direct economic opportunities for local workers and local businesses, and indirect benefit for the local economy through the multiplier effect of economic activity. In addition, WinterbourneWind will provide one of the largest Community Benefit Funds of any renewable energy project in Australia, which will support community initiatives, services and infrastructure.
How will workers be accommodated for the project?
A workforce accommodation strategy will be developed if the project is approved. There may be an ebb and flow of workers and accommodation requirements but we expect that up to a third of the full-time workforce during construction will be from the local region.
Will there be a boom/bust cycle?
As well as local construction jobs the project will be able to provide around 16 long-term local service and maintenance jobs during operation. While the wind farm will have a design life of 30 years, the project may also be extended for a further operating period, presenting an opportunity for continuous new industry, skills, jobs and economic activity in Walcha and the broader region.
How will the community benefit from the project?
If the project is approved, Winterbourne Wind Farm will establish a Community Benefit Fund that will include a $1 million contribution at the financial commitment of the project and $750,000 annually from the start of commercial operations through to project decommissioning, indexed for inflation, based on an installed wind farm up to 600 Megawatts (MW) in size. For every MW built over 600 MW, we will contribute an extra $1,000 to the fund. The Community Benefit Fund will provide a meaningful financial contribution that benefits the whole community and will be one of the largest community benefit schemes of any wind farm in Australia.
In addition, the Social Impact Assessment of the proposed project found that the proposed project will generate more than $150 million in direct wages and profits, and more than $160 million in indirect wages and profits, per year of construction. Furthermore, during project operations, the project would be expected to generate around $25 million per year in direct and indirect economic benefit for the local region.
Will there be a Community Benefit Fund for the project?
If the project is successful, WinterbourneWind will set up a Community Benefit Fund which will include a $1 million contribution at the financial commitment of the project and $750,000 annually from the start of commercial operations through to project decommissioning, indexed for inflation, based on an installed wind farm up to 600 Megawatts (MW) in size. For every MW built over 600 MW, we will contribute an extra $1,000 to the fund.
Is there a Neighbour Benefit Program?
There is no longer a Neighbour Benefit Program. Instead, we will set up a Community Benefit Fund.
How many jobs will the project create?
The project will create up to an estimated 400 new jobs during construction and approximately 16 long-term service and maintenance jobs during operation. A range of skills will be required, including engineering, trades (electrical, mechanical, construction), transport, building material providers, equipment operators, consultants and administrative staff.
How can I register my interest in working at or providing services to the wind farm?
Please send us an enquiry via our contact form with your contact details and details of your skills or services. We are maintaining a database of interested contractors and suppliers. We will hold contractor information nights in late 2024 as we get closer to the start of project construction.
How long will it take to build the wind farm?
We expect to begin construction in early 2025, subject to development consent and grid connection approval. Construction will take around 2 years to complete.
Will water be required and where will it be sourced from?
What are the hours of construction?
The hours of construction will be specified in the development approval. Typically, construction will occur during standard construction hours Monday through Friday 7am to 6pm and Saturday 8am to 6pm, with no work on Sundays and public holidays. When works need to happen outside these standard hours, we will provide advance notice and put in place measures to minimise disruption.
Is there a traffic impact assessment?
A Traffic Impact Assessment has been prepared as part of the EIS. Two different types of vehicle movements are assessed. The first is the impact of standard light and heavy vehicles, which generate the majority of the vehicle movements and represent the typical traffic impact of the project on a day-to-day basis. The second is the impact of the Oversize and/or Overmass (OSOM) vehicles, which are subject to separate permit applications and regulations.
Is there a transport management plan?
A Traffic Management Plan (TMP) is typically prepared once the project is approved, a construction contractor is appointed, and additional information about the construction arrangements is known. The Traffic Impact Assessment prepared as part of the EIS has provided an assessment of the expected construction traffic impacts and provided a range of traffic management and mitigation measures. The subsequent Traffic Management Plan will incorporate these management measures. Road authorities must approve the TMP before construction.
How will turbines be delivered to Walcha?
Turbine loads will originate from the Port of Newcastle and travel via Tamworth along the Oxley Highway. The delivery of larger plant associated with the turbines will be undertaken by Oversize Overmass (OSOM) vehicles. The delivery of the turbine plant will be conducted by a specialist transport company with experience working on wind farm projects. Vehicles are subject to specific permits, ensuring the proposed delivery method is undertaken in a considered manner acceptable to the road authorities.
These trips are extraordinarily well-planned and coordinated to ensure public safety and traffic control where required. There will be lead and follow escort vehicles. Drivers can only work for a specified number of hours per day and given the length of the trip from Newcastle to Walcha, each trip will take two days. It is expected that the first day will be travel from Newcastle to Tamworth, where the driver will spend the night. On the second day, the driver will leave Tamworth at daylight and travel to Walcha, arriving 2-2.5 hours after departure. Drivers are professional and highly experienced.
Will local roads be affected by the transportation of the wind turbine blades and towers?
We plan to transport wind turbines and other heavy equipment on major roads, 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. We will avoid central Walcha by using Saleyards Road, Darjeeling Road, Thunderbolts Way and Jamieson Street.
Some local roads may need to be upgraded within the project area to accommodate heavy loads and construction traffic. For example, Bark Hut Road and part of Blue Mountain Road will likely be upgraded, and some culverts and causeways may also need to be strengthened.
The proposed route, and required road upgrades, are described in the Environmental Impact Statement. Any local road upgrades will also be discussed and agreed with Walcha Council before construction.
Will traffic be impacted between Walcha and Bendemeer?
The traffic impact of standard light and heavy vehicles is expected to be minimal, given that the Traffic Impact Assessment found that Oxley Highway will operate with a good level of service.
We expect 4 – 5 Oversize and/or Overmass (OSOM) loads per day up to six days a week (Monday – Saturday) for a period of about 12 months. These loads will move according to a schedule which can be published on a weekly basis so that other road users can plan their trips accordingly. The estimated time from Bendemeer to Walcha for transporting OSOM loads would be between 1.25 and 2 hours, depending on the load. However, our specialist transport provider has noted that the OSOM loads would generally not delay traffic for more than a few minutes each time.
OSOM loads will be timed to occur after morning peak hours. The first vehicle would arrive at the project site around 10am each day. Itis anticipated there would be a load approximately every 15 minutes until 11:30am. These drivers would deliver their loads and spend the night in Walcha; then, the empty trucks would return along the same route they came the following day.
We are currently working to identify suitable traffic management techniques such as pull-over bays which can be implemented to minimise delays to other road users, including local businesses.
Have you assessed the traffic impact on Thunderbolts Way?
The current traffic on Thunderbolts Way is approximately 1,120 vehicles per day and may increase by approximately 280 vehicles per day during the peak construction of the project. A traffic expert has concluded that Thunderbolts Way and the local road network can accommodate project traffic with good service and ample spare capacity.
We will upgrade local roads where necessary before construction to the satisfaction of the Council and Transport for NSW. The road network utilised by the project will be monitored and maintained to ensure continued safe use by all road users. Any damage attributed to project construction will be rectified.
Will you repair any damage to the roads within the Walcha district?
Maintenance and repair of roads is a standard condition of development consent and will be the subject of an agreement with Walcha Council. As the project proponent, we will be responsible for repair and maintenance of roads used for wind farm construction.
Are there any health risks associated with wind farms?
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.
Will there be noise from the turbines?
The noise assessment for the Winterbourne Wind Farm project predicts the operational noise will be lower than relevant noise criteria in accordance with the NSW Wind Farm Noise Guidelines.
The NSW Wind Farm Noise Guidelines specify some of the most stringent noise criteria in the world and are lower than comparable criteria in the US and Europe. The allowable level is somewhere between a whisper and a quiet library in terms of noise. This level is set to ensure that noise levels from wind turbines are compatible with surrounding land uses and to ensure that noise levels do not significantly affect the living experience of people residing in the area.
Will the wind turbines require lights?
As part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project, we engaged a specialist consultant to prepare an Aviation Impact Assessment. The assessment evaluates existing aircraft operations (both commercial airlines and local operators) in the vicinity of the wind farm. The report found that the wind turbines would not require obstacle lighting to maintain an acceptable level of safety to aircraft. However, it is possible that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) may still recommend lighting for aircraft safety. If lighting is required, it will be installed on the turbine nacelle, and will be shielded to reduce the amount of light visible at ground level.
Will the turbines affect local aerial spraying?
The EIS includes an Aviation Impact Assessment, which examines the potential impacts of aerial spraying. This is managed by shutting down relevant turbines while spraying takes place, something we do regularly at wind farms across Australia.
How long will the wind farm operate?
The Winterbourne Wind Farm will have a design life of 30 years. At the end of this period, the wind farm will either be refurbished and continue operating or decommissioned.
What happens at the end of project operations?
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.
Who is responsible for decommissioning of the wind farm?
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.
How will the project be decommissioned?
At the end of project life, the wind farm will be deconstructed in accordance with a Decommissioning Plan, which must be approved by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.
The method of decommissioning will depend on safety considerations and on options for potential re-sale of the equipment. If the equipment can be reused or refurbished, then decommissioning will be undertaken essentially as the reverse of construction, with blades, nacelle and tower sections removed carefully by crane and transported offsite to be delivered to another user, either within Australia or overseas. More likely, however, the equipment will no longer be suitable for re-use or it will not be economically viable to transport it to a new location. In this case, the equipment can potentially be brought down via controlled demolition and then cut up on the ground and transported offsite for recycling or disposal. This method will not require cranes or oversize vehicles and will thus be less disruptive to landowners and the community.
Are wind turbines recyclable?
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.
Can the turbine blades be recycled?
Turbine blades are constructed of carbon and glass fibre composites, polyurethane foam and epoxy adhesives. They are designed to endure harsh conditions over several decades, and blade materials are strongly linked together, resulting in durable structures that are challenging to break down. The recycling process for composite materials aims to separate the polymer (resin) and fibre composites. Once separated, the resins are usually used for energy production, while the fibre can be re-used or recycled.
As the global wind industry grows, more commercial options for recycling wind turbine blades are becoming available.
Vestas is currently upscaling a new chemical solution that can break down epoxy resin into virgin-grade materials. Once matured, this solution will eliminate the disposal of epoxy-based blades in landfills when decommissioned. In time, legacy blade material currently sitting in landfills and blade material in operational wind farms can be disassembled and re-used by applying this technology. The newly-developed solution supports Vestas’ goal of achieving zero-waste wind turbines by 2040.
The Walcha landfill will not be used for disposal of decommissioned turbine blades.
What happens to the concrete foundation of the turbines?
The concrete foundations will be removed to a depth of at least 200 mm below ground surface, but the bulk of the foundation will be left in-situ. The excavated area will be backfilled with compatible local material and then covered with 200 mm of topsoil to ensure that grazing and farming activities can be resumed.
What happens to the access roads?
In many cases, the access roads built as part of the wind project will become a valuable asset for the host landowners. At the end of project life, we will consult with host landowners to determine if they would like the access roads to remain or would like them rehabilitated. Access roads which are no longer needed for farming operations will be covered with 200 mm of topsoil and seeded with native vegetation.
How much will project decommissioning cost?
A Decommissioning and Rehabilitation commissioned by WinterbourneWind found that the total cost of project decommissioning and rehabilitation varied between approximately $28.8 million ($242,000 per turbine) and -$13.1 million (-$111,000 per turbine), depending on the demolition method, and net of the return from salvage. The lower figure (negative number) indicates that the value of the scrap metal recovered would more than offset the cost of decommissioning.