May 9, 2019
Construction of the South Burnett’s second wind farm could begin as early as next year, a public meeting at Kingaroy RSL Club heard on Thursday night.
If approved, the wind farm would be built on a 500ha block near the intersection of Jumma and Glenrocks roads in Mannuem by Australian Energy Wind Farm (AEWF).
AEWF has already bought the land.
The Gold Coast-based company is fully owned by China’s Heilongjiang Ainaji Dianli Pty Ltd which has been involved in 85 renewable energy projects overseas.
The 35 people who attended the “community pop-up event” in Kingaroy were told the 16-turbine Mannuem project was expected to cost more than $200 million and would take about 12 months to build.
It would be able to generate 53.55 megawatt hours at peak capacity and have a 30-year lifespan.
AEWF says this is enough energy to power 19,000 homes and would reduce carbon dioxide output by an estimated 163,000 tonnes per year.
The project would also include the upgrading of roads leading to the site, as well as the construction of eight kilometres of roads within the block.
Several bridges may require strengthening, which would be done at AEWF’s cost.
The project would also require the construction of a substation by Powerlink – funded by AEWF – to feed the wind farm’s output into the State’s energy grid.
Nick Canto from I3 Consulting, the Brisbane-based engineering consultancy engaged by AEWF, said that during construction the wind farm could be expected to create 120 to 130 jobs.
Where possible, appropriately skilled local workers would be used.
After construction, the project would be overseen by five permanent staff.
Mr Canto said the start of construction would depend on obtaining necessary approvals from the State Government, Powerlink, the Australian Energy Market Operator and the South Burnett Regional Council.
However, AEWF was hopeful these approvals and detailed designs for the project could be completed by the end of this year.
If they were, then construction could begin in mid to late 2020.
Unlike AGL’s Coopers Gap Wind Farm 30km to the south, AEWF decided to buy the land rather than lease properties from local landholders.
Mr Canto said the technology behind wind farms has undergone significant advances in the past three years.
The 16 Mannuem wind turbines would each produce between 4.5-5.5MW (the Coopers Gap turbines are rated at 3.63MW).
They would also stand taller than Coopers Gap. Tip height will be 220m with 80m-long blades; in comparison, the Coopers Gap blades are 67.2m long and have a tip height of 180m.
Mr Canto said at the end of the wind farm’s life, most of the decommissioning cost could be recouped from recycling its materials.
However, recent European experience was that it was often more profitable to “re-energise” an ageing wind farm by updating its turbines, since all other necessary infrastructure was already in place.
This meant it was possible the true life of any wind farm could now be much longer than the working life of its turbines.
Mr Canto said the turbine components would be sourced from China, but this was not unusual.
Most turbines already in use were built in either China or India, including those sold by US-based companies such as General Electric, he said.
In response to a question about AEFW’s long-term intentions for the project, Mr Canto said the company was committed to develop and build the wind farm, but he was unable to say if they intended to retain ownership.
He added it was not uncommon for renewable energy projects around the world to change ownership during their lifespan, pointing out that AGL had passed ownership of the Coopers Gap Wind Farm to the Powering Australian Renewables Fund (PARF) before the project was finished.
New owners would be obliged to comply with the same conditions governing operation and decommissioning as the organisation that built it.
Mr Canto said AEWF was committed to supporting the host communities of its projects by establishing a locally managed community benefit fund to support local community groups.
Input would be sought in coming months from the community about how the Mannuem Wind Farm’s community benefit fund could be implemented.
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