December 17, 2019
Workers at the Coopers Gap Wind Farm have celebrated a milestone with the delivery of the final wind farm component to the Cooranga North site.
The enormous column – part of a wind turbine tower – was the last of 1658 deliveries made to the site.
Since early September 2018, convoys have been ferrying towers, blades and nacelles from the Port Of Brisbane to Coopers Gap.
Convoys have been running late at night and in the early hours of the morning to minimise traffic disruptions, following carefully planned routes through Dalby and Blackbutt.
All up, the convoys – which included pilot vehicles and police escorts – travelled a combined 3.6 million kilometres, a distance equivalent to circling the Earth almost 90 times.
The announcement of the final component delivery was made at the latest quarterly Community Consultative Committee (CCC) meeting for 2019 held at Cooranga North Hall last Thursday.
Project Director Brian McEvoy said the wind farm’s component deliveries had been a massive task but he was pleased to report they had occurred on schedule and without incident.
To date, more than 203,000 hours had been expended on the project and no time has been lost due to workplace injuries.
Mr McEvoy said there were currently more than 40 turbines generating around 180MW of electricity at Coopers Gap.
Construction was expected to finish by the end of February.
After this, the remainder of the turbines will be tested and progressively brought online by the end of June, at which time the wind farm will be generating 450MW.
The meeting was also addressed by Neil French, the First Officer of the Cooranga North Rural Fire Brigade, who said the community wanted to thank AGL for their assistance in helping Cooranga North get a new fire shed.
Neil told the meeting the brigade had been given a new fire truck a few years ago.
While they greatly appreciated getting a modern, state-of-the-art appliance, the gift had one significant drawback: it was too big to be stored in the brigade’s shed.
Because of this, he had been keeping the new fire truck in one of the sheds on his own farm, a situation that was far from ideal.
However, the process of getting permission and funding to build a replacement shed on the brigade’s current site opposite Cooranga North Hall had proved insuperable until AGL stepped in.
“I would not have been able to achieve this or navigate the phone calls and government pathways without help from AGL, especially AGL’s Government and Community Senior Manager Clare Wilkes and her knowledge of government,” Mr French said.
“We are always ringing her, not just about the wind farm, but because she has great networks and knows who to ring and how to get things happening.
“It’s been a big help, especially as most of us have jobs and farms and the fire service is our volunteer time.”
Mr French said pledges from AGL and the wind farm’s sub-contractors, such as Wagners, would now guarantee funding to build the new fire shed, which the brigade hopes to open the same day the wind farm officially opens.
Ms Wilkes told southburnett.com.au she was very grateful to Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford and QFES South West Region Chief Commissioner Megan Stiffler for their help with the fire shed project.
“Considering current drought and fire conditions in Queensland and given all the local rural fire brigade does to help our wind farm, it makes sense to work hand-in-hand with this important stakeholder,” Ms Wilkes said.
“AGL is absolutely committed to the communities we operate in and our CEO, Mr Brett Redman, is leading the way on how we engage with the communities where we operate,” she said.
“So if a fire shed is important for Cooranga North, then it’s important for AGL – plus, if we ever got in trouble and needed help on site, I know the Rural Fire Brigade would be the first ones there.
“They are a really great rural fire service that go above and beyond for this area.”
The subject of improved mobile phone reception for the wind farm and adjoining areas is still under discussion.
Ms Wilkes said she was in Canberra recently to meet with local MP, Drought Minister David Littleproud, to discuss AGL’s purchase of Southern Phone Company, which is not completely finalised, and to give updates on Coopers Gap.
She said Minister Littleproud has been working with AGL to secure mobile phone service for the area, and he had informed Regional Services Minister Mark Coulton to ensure he was aware of the issue as well.
Ms Wilkes said she hopes to have a positive announcement to make in 2020.
Negotiations for a viewing platform which will allow tourists to safely view the wind farm are progressing, South Burnett Cr Ros Heit told the meeting.
The preferred location was AGL’s current site office near the Bilboa Road junction with Niagara Road.
Cr Heit said the land occupied by AGL’s site office would allow caravanners to pull off Niagara Road in safety, and turn their vehicles easily when they wanted to leave.
It also provided an excellent view across the wind farm, and would allow visitors the opportunity to take “selfies” with the wind farm’s towers.
Cr Heit said the proposed site was privately owned but the owner had indicated they were open to discussing the idea.
She hoped to be able to report further developments at the CCC’s next meeting in March 2020.
After the meeting concluded, members of the CCC committee, AGL staff and community members concluded the year with an informal Christmas barbecue and drinks.
The meeting resolved the CCC committee will continue quarterly meetings until the wind farm’s official opening in June, then meet half-yearly after that unless special circumstances arise.
Once the wind farm is built, the CCC’s main function will be to assess applications for grants from the Coopers Gap Community Benefit Fund, and liaise on any wind farm-related issues with AGL.