About the project
- Q: What is the Macarthur Wind Farm Project and where will it be located?
A: The $1 billion Macarthur Wind Farm Project is made up of 140 wind turbines located on approximately 5,500 hectares of freehold agricultural land 16km east of Macarthur, near Hamilton in South Western Victoria.
The wind farm will be located on three properties that are predominately used for sheep and cattle grazing. The location was chosen for its high potential wind harvesting capacity, its community support and its existing transmission infrastructure.
The Macarthur Wind Farm will have a total capacity of 420 MW - enough clean, green energy to power approximately 220,000 average Australian households per year, with a greenhouse gas emission savings of over 1.7 million tonnes per annum.
The Macarthur Wind Farm is jointly owned by AGL and Meridian Energy. AGL will manage the construction and operation of the wind farm on behalf of the owners.
- Q: What sort of environment is the Macarthur Wind Farm located in?
A: The project site consists of predominately flat to lightly rising areas on large land holdings. Farming activities across the site are principally sheep and cattle farming which is well supported with fertile soils and comparatively regular rainfall. Wind speed and consistency has been measured over a number of years which provides very accurate information which has facilitated the investment decision.
The town of Macarthur is part of the Moyne Shire. The wind farm will benefit Macarthur and surrounding communities providing employment opportunities and business growth during construction and throughout the operational life of the wind farm. Increased local expenditure and indirect employment and business opportunities are also key effects to be gained from this investment.
- Q: Is this the right investment for this area?
A: There are many factors that need to be taken into account before a considerable investment such as a wind farm can be considered for construction. These factors include but are not limited to:
- Wind quality
- Correctness of landscape and zone
- Alignment with state and local government strategies
- Community will
- Availability of existing infrastructure
- Approvals from state and local government plus approvals by relevant statutory authorities
- Investment approval by the Boards of Directors of the owners
AGL and Meridian have a proud history of sound investment decisions involving wind farms and other zero emission power generation. Both AGL and Meridian have a proven track record of sound management practices in fragile environments including Hydro Schemes in Australia and New Zealand. Further, AGL continues significant and ongoing investment in the Hallett region of South Australia through constructing and operating wind farms in that region and we are currently constructing the Oaklands Hill Wind Farm at Glenthompson in Western Victoria.
The Macarthur Wind Farm provides the South West area with a long term investment - supporting the Moyne Shires' future strategic direction through the project's location, creation of employment and other local opportunities.
- Q: What process was Macarthur Wind Farm subject to before it was approved for construction?
A: The planning process for the Macarthur Wind Farm involved the following:
- In 2004, Southern Hydro conducted preliminary investigations and prepared a proposal to seek regulatory approval to construct a wind farm near Macarthur
- In 2005, the Department of Environment and Heritage issued confirmation that the proposed development was not considered a controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The Permit Application PL-SP/05/0283 was submitted
- In 2006, a Panel Hearing was conducted and the Panel Report issued. The Minister for Planning subsequently issued the Planning Permit based on a maximum of 183 wind turbines
- In 2010, the Cultural Heritage Management Plan was issued, the Application for Native Vegetation Removal Permit submitted and an application for amendment to the Planning Permit was made. An amended Planning Permit was subsequently issued by The Minister for Planning based on a maximum of 140 wind turbines with higher overall capacity
- Q: How many turbines will there be and what will they look like?
A: There will be 140 Vestas V112 turbines at the Macarthur Wind Farm with a capacity of 3.0MW each for a total capacity of 420MW. The total output from the wind farm cannot exceed 450MW.
The turbine towers will be approximately 84m high and the rotor blades are approximately 56m in length, with a span 112m when affixed in a set of three. The maximum blade tip height will be 140m.
The nacelle is located at the top of the tower, behind the blades, and houses the gear box, electric motor and associated mechanical equipment.
The diagram below illustrates the scale of the turbines that will be constructed at the Macarthur Wind Farm.
Turbines will be constructed of materials that minimize the visual impact on the landscape, including coloured finishes that blend with the landscape and which are non-reflective.
- Q: When will Macarthur Wind Farm be built and become operational?
A: Pre-mobilisation activities began in August 2010.
Construction in earnest should begin in the first quarter of 2011 and aim to be completed in the first quarter of 2013.
During construction, an average workforce of 220 (and up to 300 personnel during construction peak) will be engaged directly on site, with many other workers and local businesses benefitting from these construction activities.
Following construction, the wind farm has a design life of 25 years. During this time around 30 personnel will be permanently stationed at the site for ongoing maintenance and operational work, with additional resources called in from time to time to support scheduled busy periods of maintenance.
- Q: What will the construction hours be?
A: Normal working hours for construction activities will be between 6am and 6pm, Monday to Saturday.
Nights sometimes provide these more favourable ambient conditions, so some works may be undertaken outside normal working hours to optimise safety on site. Any night works will be restricted to low-noise activities. Local residents that may be impacted will receive at least 48 hours notification prior to any out-of-hours construction.
- Q: How many trucks will us the local roads?
A: As with other projects of this nature, numerous truck journeys will be undertaken throughout the construction phase, with the majority of turbine components arriving in late 2011 and early 2012. Our traffic management planning takes into account the quantity, size, routes and timing of truck journeys with a view to minimising local community impact and ensuring the community is made aware of and continually updated about impending construction traffic and changed road conditions such as interim speed limits, areas of high construction vehicle usage and the like.
Construction work will be undertaken entirely on the project site, using access tracks constructed with local materials.
- Q: Will native vegetation need to be removed?
A: Native vegetation only occurs in a very limited number of places at the wind farm site, and these areas have been clearly identified. The design of the wind farm has taken the survey results in to consideration with the result being that minimal removal will be necessary.
Native Vegetation Removal Permits require AGL to provide an offset planting area and to plant replacement native vegetation where removal exceeds designated levels. AGL will work with the Department of Sustainability and Environment to ensure compliance with permits issued. A site within the wind farm boundary has already been identified for offset planting where and if required.
- Q: Will erosion be impacted by constructing or operating the wind farm?
A: Modern construction techniques and strict environmental guidelines are designed to protect the environment and to minimise the likelihood of erosion. Construction progress will be monitored and audited by AGL and the relevant authorities at various stages and Environmental Management Plans are required to be approved before construction commences.
- Q: Will my TV and radio reception be negatively impacted?
A: Wind turbines can interfere with TV and radio reception, and because of this the Planning Permit requires that a pre construction survey is conducted. Measurements of reception quality at properties around the wind farm is required (prior to construction commencing) including at neighbouring properties where approval has been granted by the landowners. Following completion of construction, we will conduct measurements again, and if signal deterioration is observed and there is an impact to reception as a result of the wind farm, then AGL must undertake measures to make good.
- Q: Will agricultural farming activities be impacted by the wind farm?
A: There is typically very little or no impact to farming activities on neighbouring properties.
Any impact to neighbouring farming activities is restricted to issues such as cattle crossings and farm machinery use of public roads. These impacts are infrequent and can be effectively managed through local communications with farmers and construction personnel.
Also during construction, increased traffic, changed speed limits and additional signage will be required to ensure that construction activities do not present an increased risk to the community and those who visit the area.
The land on which the wind farm is built is impacted as building a wind farm requires a lot of construction activity. This activity consists of making access tracks on leased land, areas for the safe use of cranes and other construction equipment, office, amenities and storage areas and concrete manufacturing facility. Also foundation holes are required to be formed and then filled with concrete and supporting steel to support the towers and wind turbines.
Once the wind farm is built and construction equipment removed, farming activities can carry on as before.
- Q: Will the wind turbines impact birds and other wildlife?
A: While wind turbines, like many tall man-made structures, present a collision risk to birds and bats a report (Wind Energy -The Myths and the Facts- Sustainability Victoria 2006) advises that no rare, threatened or endangered species have been killed as a result of wind turbines in Victoria.
During the planning process surveys of land based fauna have also been conducted.
From these surveys, specific considerations have been given to habitat for the 'Striped Legless Lizard', the 'Fat Tailed Dunnart', Brolga and bats as these have been identified as the fauna potentially impacted by the wind farm.
As a result, wind turbines and other infrastructure will not be placed in areas nominated where the 'Striped Legless Lizard' and 'Fat Tailed Dunnart' have been sighted through formal recognised surveys that have been considered in the Planning Permit. A Bat and Avifauna Management Plan has been developed and approved for use together with participation in and funding to a benchmark study regarding the impacts of wind farms on Brolga.
- Q: Will the wind farm impact on areas of cultural significance?
A: The general area around Macarthur and beyond does contain areas of cultural significance. This includes archaeological sites associated with indigenous Australians plus areas of other historical significance.
Substantial investigation has taken place and detailed mapping prepared identifying areas of cultural significance. The wind farm design has taken account of this information and infrastructure associated with the wind farm will not impact these areas.
As an added insurance, agreements and processes are in place to ensure that if any archaeological artefacts are discovered during construction, that this is reported immediately to registered and relevant groups so that appropriate investigations and recommendation may be made.
- Q: Will the turbines frighten sheep and other animals?
A: Wind turbines do not have any noticeable impact on livestock. Animals such as cattle and sheep habitually graze around the wind turbines undisturbed. In fact on hot summer days you will regularly see cattle and sheep lining up in the shade of the turbine towers.
- Q: Will the turbines be noisy?
A: A detailed assessment of the potential impacts of noise from the Macarthur Wind Farm has been undertaken by specialist noise consultants. The assessment was based on the Victorian Government requirements that noise levels at residential dwellings should not exceed the background noise level by more than 5dBA or a level of 40dBA, whichever is greater. The Macarthur Wind Farm must meet this standard. The assessment has determined that the noise levels will not exceed the levels stipulated in the Planning Permit. We are also completing further noise data logging and assessments at the time of writing.
Post construction, AGL will undertake a noise monitoring program to ensure that noise levels comply with the Planning Permit conditions.
- Q: Will the turbines cause any adverse effects on health?
A: Independent studies have been completed by the National Health and Medical Research Council and it has concluded that "…based on current evidence it can be concluded that that wind turbines do not pose a threat to health if planning guidelines are followed…". The Chief Medical Officer (Victoria) and Worksafe agree.
- Q: What about infrasound?
A: Studies have confirmed that infrasound from wind farms is less than that caused through naturally occurring means.
The studies conclude that there are no plausible links to adverse health from infrasound emanating from wind turbines.
- Q: What about the visual impact of the turbines?
A: Peoples' perception of the visual impact of wind turbines can vary greatly. Some people find the prospect of direct views to be pleasing, while others do not like the look of the turbines in the landscape.
There are strict planning guidelines relating to the visual impact of wind turbines on the local environment. Considerations include impact to existing views, colour, blade and shadow flicker, and many others.
The planning process undertaken has confirmed that the location, the design and the modelling conducted against the measurable criteria has ensured this development meets all requirements as set down in the appropriate standards, legislation and other limitations set by the Planning Permit.
Of particular note:
- Visual impact is reduced by turbines being light grey / off white in colour (research shows meteorological conditions produce mostly cloudy days) and with carefully chosen plantings to screen local views
- Measures have been undertaken to reduce the visual impact, such as sensitive sighting of turbines and landscaping of related infrastructure
- As part of the Planning Permit conditions, a detailed Landscape Plan is required to be prepared to provide landscaping or visual screening to reduce the visual impact of the wind turbines and the substations associated with the wind farm
- Specific landscaping plans include planting a mix of trees and shrubs to mitigate the views from nearby properties to the wind turbines and substation. These plans will be developed in consultation with nearby landowners, Council, and the Department of Sustainability and Environment
- Q: What will happen when the wind farm reaches the end of its life?
A: The Macarthur Wind Farm is expected to have a base life of approximately 25 years.
After this time, the site will be reviewed and assessed to determine whether the wind farm may be upgraded with the latest turbine technology or otherwise decommissioned through a phased approach - dismantling the above ground equipment and then removing it from the site, and rehabilitating the site.
When a wind farm is decommissioned, the site can be returned to essentially the same state as it was before the wind farm was built.