Reagan Parle, from TSBE, chatted with Cr Ros Heit and Danny Kreutzer (Westlink Petroleum) after the meeting; all three can see many benefits for surrounding communities from the wind farm

September 1, 2017

Construction of the Coopers Gap Wind Farm will start on September 11 and the project should become fully operational by mid-2019, a meeting at Cooranga North was told on Thursday.

An AGL spokesman said work on preparing the base for the wind farm’s substation would begin in less than a fortnight.

The first turbines were expected to arrive at the Port of Brisbane on February 28, and the first parts would begin arriving at Coopers Gap on May 2.

The substation, which will transfer energy from the wind turbines into Powerlink’s grid, will be energised on October 11 next year.

Once it comes online, the first turbines should come into commission roughly three weeks later.

If all plans run without a major hiccup, AGL expects wind farm will become fully operational by mid-2019.

The construction schedule was announced on Thursday afternoon at AGL’s quarterly Community Consultative Committee meeting held at Cooranga North Hall.

AGL representatives told an audience of about 30 people the project had achieved “financial closure” on August 17, which meant the wind farm now had a green light to proceed to its construction phase.

AGL has already appointed General Electric and Civil and Allied Technical Construction (GE-CATCON) as principal contractors, and intends to hold workshops in Kingaroy and Dalby in the next four to six weeks for local businesses which would like to get involved in the wind farm’s construction.

The company is also scouting the region for suitable locations to erect temporary contractor camps that would house workers during the construction phase.

The new wind farm, which will host 123 turbines capable of producing a maximum 453Mw, will be the largest in Australia in terms of power output.

The 180 metre tall turbines will be capable of producing enough electricity to power 260,000 homes, and 65 turbines will be equipped with aviation hazard lighting to prevent local aviators accidentally flying into them.

AGL will install the turbines on 12 adjoining properties and pay property owners an annual rental for the use of their land.

Other property owners located within 2km of the site’s boundaries will be given free solar power systems to compensate them for any loss of visual amenity the wind turbines might create.

The company will erect 20m x 40m concrete hard stands to seat each of the turbines, and build an 85km road network to connect them.

While there will be a “spine” of overhead cables to connect clusters of turbines to the Powerlink substation near Niagara Road, most turbines will be connected by underground cables to minimise visual pollution and impacts on farming properties.

The company will also build offices at the substation to house the wind farm’s operational and maintenance staff.

The AGL representative said the company expected the wind farm would have a 25-year life span once it comes into full production.

AGL will create a $30,000 per annum community fund to foster projects that will create long-lasting benefits for the nearby communities of Kumbia, Jandowae and Bell.

However, during the two-year construction phase, the company will kick in an extra $30,000 a year to compensate locals for any disruptions the work may cause.

This meant AGL’s full contribution over the project’s life would amount to $870,000.

The annual community funding would also be indexed to ensure it retained its purchasing power; if any funding failed to be spent in a round, it would be retained for distribution in future funding rounds.

The plan is for the community fund to be administered by a panel of local community representatives and Councillors from the South Burnett and Western Downs Regional Councils. Two grant rounds will be held every year, in May and November.

AGL plan to issue a quarterly newsletter to update interested residents on the progress of the project, and post photos and videos on a website that will be set up to provide online updates about the wind farm’s progress during construction.

The company also wants to tackle poor mobile reception in the Coopers Gap area, and would like to see the entire area between Kingaroy and Dalby become “black spot free” by the time the wind farm’s construction is finished.

Clare Wilkes, AGL’s Senior Manager for Government and Community Relations, told the audience that AGL has strong community engagement policies and intends to apply them to the project.

She said local procurement was particularly high on the company’s agenda.

While the community fund might foster the most comment, she said the bulk of the wind farm’s benefits would be felt in the economic activity it generated in local communities.

Initially, this would be felt during the wind farm’s construction phase.

But over the longer term, it would be felt in the permanent jobs created for the wind farm’s day-to-day operation and maintenance.

Ms Wilkes sought the meeting’s endorsement to liaise with Member for Maranoa David Littleproud on seeking solutions to the area’s mobile phone problems.

A show of hands proved half those in attendance suffered telecommunications problems and her request received unanimous endorsement.

South Burnett businesses which would like to register their interest in the wind farm’s construction work in advance of the planned public meetings should contact Reagan Parle, the General Manager of Toowoomba Surat Basin Enterprises (TSBE) on (07) 4439-4400 or email him.

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