ABOUT WIND FARMS
The construction timeframe depends on the project size and the number of workers deployed on site. For a 100 MW power plant, an 8 to 14-month timeframe is typical, with a peak construction period of 2 to 3 months. A large project like our Hornsdale Wind Farm will take around 24 months to construct with a longer peak construction.
Neoen’s projects use premium quality wind turbines and battery technology provided by leading manufacturers. This is selected through a competitive process for each project. All components come with long warranty periods, wind turbines are generally warrantied for 20 to 25 years.
The project will operate for 25 to 30 years. After this, all infrastructure will be removed and the site will be rehabilitated. Or, new turbines may be re-installed for a further 25-30 years, before they are removed. When properly maintained, wind turbines remain highly efficient.
Wind turbines are designed to convert wind into mechanical energy by rotating the turbine blades. The mechanical energy is converted into electricity via a generator in the nacelle, which is sent directly to the grid. The electricity generated by the turbine is proportional to the wind speed cubed. As an example, a wind turbine in 8m/s wind will produce about 8 times as much electricity as a wind turbine in 4m/s wind. This is why it’s important to place turbines in high and consistently windy areas to achieve the lowest cost power generation for consumers.
Generally speaking wind turbines have a tip height of between 150 and 270 metres with approximately 500 to 1000 metres between each turbine. However, this varies from project to project.
We acknowledge that wind turbines do impact the landscape but will work with communities to ensure our wind farms have the least possible detrimental impact on visual amenity. Neoen encourage individuals and groups that have questions about visual impact and remedies to engage with us early.
Overall, we consider that the immediate and long-term benefits which wind farms bring to communities offset any loss of visual amenity.
At the end of the wind farm’s life cycle (typically 25-30 years) the wind farm is decommissioned and we remove the wind turbines and all above ground structures and rehabilitate the site. This is a condition of the wind farm’s development approval from the State government and our agreement with the landowners.
During decommissioning most of the materials the wind farm is made from can be reclaimed or recycled.
A 2012 study by SKM on the economic benefits of wind farms in Australia found that, for every 50 MW in capacity, a wind farm delivered the following benefits:
- Direct employment of up to 48 construction workers, with each worker spending approximately $25,000 in the local area in shops, restaurants, hotels and other services (a total of up to $1.2 million)
- Indirect employment during the construction phase of approximately 160 people locally, 504 state jobs and 795 nationwide jobs
Renewable energy projects are now the cheapest sources of new energy generation.
Wind and solar generation produce energy at less than $50 per megawatt hour (depending on the quality of the renewable resource and the size of the project).
The costs of other sources of generation are:
- Gas generation: >$90 per megawatt hour
- Existing coal generation: approximately $40 per megawatt hour
- New coal generation: approximately $130 per megawatt hour
We do not require government subsidies to finance our projects. We finance our projects through a combination of our own shareholder equity and long-term bank loans.
We sometimes enter commercial agreements with governments or businesses to sell the power our projects produce.
We pay for any upgrades to State or Local Government or landowner roads required for transporting wind turbine components to site. If we damage roads, we will pay for repairs.
We pay for any electrical transmission upgrades necessary to connect and operate the project in the electricity grid. This includes construction and maintenance costs for the life of the project.
All Neoen projects meet strict State and Federal Government regulations and are assessed under these regulations. We work closely with governments to ensure we meet all legal requirements and exceed these requirements wherever possible.
Studies into the potential impact of wind farm developments on property prices, including by the NSW Valuer-General (2009) and Urbis (2016), have not found any consistent evidence to link wind farms with adverse impacts on property prices.
This is particularly so for primary production rather than lifestyle properties.
At the end of a project life cycle, the turbines are removed and the site is rehabilitated.
This is a commitment we make to the landholders and the State government, which is in the development approval and our contract with the host landholders.
After the assets are removed, most of the materials are reclaimed or recycled.
Health & Culture
There are nearly 200,000 wind turbines installed worldwide — many of them in more densely populated areas close to houses.
Some 17 reviews of research literature conducted by leading health and research organisations from all over the world, including the World Health Organisation, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Centre, the UK Health Protection Agency and the US National Research Council, have concluded there is no published evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects.
To achieve development approval, a wind farm must demonstrate that noise levels at neighbouring residences will meet strict noise limits under the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) 2009 guidelines.
Noise levels are then tested after operation starts to ensure compliance. If these limits are exceeded, turbine operators must shut down or de-rate turbines to achieve compliance.
The EPA limits are designed to ensure that noise from a wind farm is not intrusive for the average person.
The baseline limit for noise audible outside a dwelling in Primary Production-zoned land is 40db(A). This is comparable to a quiet conversation in another room of a house.
Monitoring of dust levels during construction is a basic requirement of each project. Dust generating activities are assessed during windy conditions and are stopped and rescheduled where adequate control of dust generation cannot be achieved.
Visual observation of machinery is undertaken during site inspections in addition to daily pre-start checks which ensure all machinery has appropriate emission control devices, is in good working order and is maintained correctly.
We also have strong Aboriginal workforce participation targets, and strive to foster a deep, cooperative relationship with Aboriginal stakeholders across South Australia.
SAFETY & ENVIRONMENT
We engage specialist consultants to undertake detailed flora and fauna surveys to determine the ecological attributes of the land.
On all of our projects, we aim to minimise the impact on flora and fauna by designing projects to be constructed outside areas of high conservation significance and adopting control measures during the construction process.
During the detailed design, wind turbines will be micro-sited to minimise the potential impact on fauna habitat with turbine heights selected to minimize the overlap between rotor swept area and bird flight heights.
Other mitigation measures include preparing management plans, identifying ‘no-go zones’ within the project site and conducting pre-clearance surveys.
We also consult with government departments of environment and biodiversity throughout the development, construction and operational stages of projects, as well as local non-government organisations.
We built and operate the Hornsdale Wind Farm across numerous properties near Jamestown in South Australia.
Stock, including sheep and cattle, take a couple of days to get used to wind turbines, then are very comfortable with them. They rub up against turbines and use the shade from the towers during summer.
There are also some indications that in dry areas, condensation and run-off from the panels may support a higher growth rate of feed along the panel rows.
We also own and operate the Coleambally, Griffith, and Parkes solar farms on multiple properties in NSW, as well as Numurkah in Victoria. Sheep are grazing on many of our solar farms and we have conducted a successful sheep grazing trial at Parkes Solar Farm.
While wind farms are sometimes said to threaten birds, an energy governance study completed in Singapore has shown that wind farms harm 17 times fewer birds per unit of electricity produced than fossil fuel generation.
Studies show that wind farms are probably responsible for impacting birds at rates that are:
- 400 times fewer than cars
- 500 times fewer than pesticides
- 1200 times fewer than high-tension wires