All images: ACCIONA.
BY ELIZABETH FABRI
ACCIONA’s fast-tracked 132 megawatt (MW) Mt Gellibrand Wind Farm in Victoria is under construction, with less than a year left on the clock until commercial operations begin.
In late August, the Victorian Government introduced legislation setting new renewable energy targets of 25 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025; the first time such ambitious targets had been prescribed under State law in Australia.
To meet these targets, over the next few years Victoria will rely heavily on a network of new renewable energy projects to be brought online.
One of these projects is ACCIONA’s Mt Gellibrand wind farm, currently under construction in the State’s south west, 25km east of Colac.
Mt Gellibrand will be the Spanish energy company’s fourth Australian wind project, following the 192MW Waubra wind farm in Victoria, 64MW Cathedral Rocks site in South Australia, and the 46.5MW Gunning development in NSW.
The project has been in planning pipeline for some time; approved by the Government in 2006 for the development of up to 115 wind turbines.
In 2008 ACCIONA obtained the development rights to the project, reducing the number of turbines from 115 to 44.
In July last year the project was pushed forward when the company won a tender for the State Government to purchase green energy certificates for 66MW for up to 10 years.
Construction is now well and truly underway, with first production slated for mid-2018.
In April, ACCIONA contractors WBHO and Civilex began civil construction works on site.
The works included building 27km of internal access track roads, 92,000sqm of turbine hardstand areas, and more than 16,000 cubic metres of structural concrete associated with the turbine foundations.
Speaking to The Australian Energy Review in September, ACCIONA managing director Andrew Thomson said construction was “progressing well”.
“Most of the roads are now complete, and just under half the foundations have been poured,” Mr Thomson said.
“Medium voltage reticulation works have commenced along with substation construction, and the site is preparing to take deliveries of main turbine componentry from late September.”
Mr Thomson said the remainder of the year will be spent completing the civil works, continuing the electrical works and beginning turbine erection.
The first turbine erection was expected late 2017, with commissioning activities scheduled to begin early next year after the substation was complete.
The wind farm itself will form an ‘L’ shape and be positioned to the west and south of the Mt Gellibrand site, which comprises eight privately owned properties, predominately used for livestock grazing and cropping.
“We are on track for a commercial operation date (COD) for the first 66MW by 1 July 2018, and COD for the second 66MW by 1 August the same year,” Mr Thomson said.
Once complete, the wind farm would generate enough energy to power about 60,000 homes and avoid emissions of about 200,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere from coal-fired power stations.
In addition to helping Victoria meet its renewable energy targets, Mt Gellibrand will provide a significant boost to local jobs in the region.
“We currently have more than 100 people working onsite, which will increase to more than 130 in the coming months,” Mr Thomson said.
“Mt Gellibrand is generating employment and new business opportunities across the project.
“It’s a real investment in the community, with local content provisions built into the supply contracts to maximise economic benefits.”
Once the project becomes operational, ACCIONA expects to employ 10 ongoing full time equivalent people on site.
“Over the course of the project we predict a total spend of about $10 million directly in the Colac Otway Shire,” Mr Thomson said.
The project has also provided support for local sporting and community groups, community events and schools through a Community Benefit Fund set up for the operational life of the project to share the benefits with the towns surrounding the development.
With such a valuable contributions such as these already made, Mr Thomson encouraged the Federal Government to adopt a “clear policy” so more renewable energy developments could be brought into production.
“In light of the current debate around energy matters, we would strongly recommend a comprehensive and bipartisan national energy policy in this country,” he said.
“It should be noted that Mt Gellibrand only came to fruition because of a clear policy at state level, with Victoria giving an investment signal to companies like us to go ahead and develop projects in the state.
“We really need a long-term national policy with similar aims.”
In a glance
Configuration: Up to 44 3MW turbines
Expected capacity: Up to 132MW
Production: Enough energy to power 60,000 households
Project value: $275 million
Expected completion: Mid-2018