March 13, 2019
Coopers Gap Wind Farm’s completion date has been extended by almost a year due to problems getting turbine components from the Port of Brisbane to the construction site.
However, the delay could mean a boost for the local economy with work teams being on site for longer.
At AGL’s quarterly Community Consultative Meeting held at Cooranga North Hall on Wednesday, wind farm project manager Brian McEvoy said the original June 2019 completion date had been extended to April or May 2020.
“We are working to mitigate any further delays and are reviewing our timelines, and we are hopeful the project will be complete early in 2020,” Mr McEvoy said.
While most of the wind farm’s basic infrastructure had now been built, there was a bottleneck with the assembly of the wind turbines.
Mr McEvoy said AGL was experiencing ongoing difficulties moving components from Brisbane to Coopers Gap.
The main cause was a difference between Queensland’s road transport rules and those that apply interstate, where AGL has built other wind farms.
AGL Senior manager for Government and Community Relations Clare Wilkes said AGL had recently held discussions with the Department of Transport and Main Roads to see if a better solution could be found.
“Our biggest problem is we’re required to have a large police escort accompany every shipment, and because of the size of turbine components most shipments are trucks carrying just one component,” Ms Wilkes told southburnett.com.au.
“In addition, we have tight windows to carry out transports so we don’t interfere with ordinary road users, and we get very short notification times about when these windows become available.”
Local residents told the meeting a lack of overtaking lanes on the Bunya Highway between Dalby and the wind farm was also causing problems.
Because of the length of trucks carrying components, motorists were not permitted to overtake transport convoys en route from Dalby to Coopers Gap, and there was nowhere convoys could pull over to let traffic pass.
This led to long delays for local residents if they came across a convoy on that stretch of road.
Mr McEvoy said unless the situation changed, he now expected component transports would continue until October or November.
He apologised for any inconvenience this might cause.
Ms Wilkes said as compensation for the extended construction time, AGL’s Coopers Gap Community Fund would extend its bonus payment period.
The fund was established when construction began to provide grants of $30,000 a year to communities surrounding the wind farm for its expected 25-year lifespan.
However, AGL said it would double the annual amount to $60,000 during the first two years of the fund’s life to compensate local residents during the construction phase.
As the wind farm’s completion date has now been extended, AGL would also extend the bonus period.
Applications for the latest round of the Community Fund opened on March 1 and will close on March 29.
Despite the fact that construction is still under way, Coopers Gap Wind Farm is expected to begin generating power as soon as May.
A small ceremony may be held to mark when the first wind turbine is connected to the electricity grid.
The meeting heard that 12 turbines have been completed so far and a further 30 are in the first phase of assembly; 92km of connecting roads have been prepared; concrete hardstands to support the turbines have been built; and underground cabling to connect the turbines to the Niagara Road substation has been laid.
Work is now focussed on fencing the wind farm site and installing drainage systems.
There are two crane crews assembling the remaining turbines, but their progress is limited by the supply of turbine components and subject to weather conditions.
South Burnett Regional Council’s work on upgrading Niagara Road is also ongoing but is expected to take another six months to complete.
The meeting heard that as part of the upgrade, Council engineers had discovered parts of Niagara Road were not “where they should be”.
The Council was now realigning some sections to correct this.
Several residents expressed concern about the sharp curves on parts of Niagara Road, and hoped Council might also work at “softening” some of these to make the road safer.
The location of a platform that will allow tourists to stop and view the wind farm also has not been decided.
AGL said it supported the concept of a viewing platform but as the platform will have to be built on council land, the South Burnett and Western Downs councils will need to drive the concept.
[UPDATED with correction]