Around 40 people found out a bit more about a 27 turbine windfarm proposed for the Waterloo range west of Glen Innes, at information open days at the Glen Innes Severn Learning Centre on Friday and Saturday.
A representative from National Power – the joint parent company along with Babcock and Brown for the Glen Innes Wind Farm – and two from consultants Connell Wagner were on hand to provide community members with maps and handouts explaining the environmental and residential impact of the development.
The turbines, to be constructed on five grazing properties, will provide between 45 and 81 megawatts (MW) of electricity that will be hooked into TransGrid’s Inverell to Glen Innes line, which is to be upgraded to 132,000 volts.
Each turbine – which will stand up to 130m from ground to blade tip, equal to the height of a 35 storey building – will generate 2-3MW of power from three blades that will rotate up to 18 revolutions per minute. The windfarm will have a life expectancy 25 years, and is estimated to save up to 195,000 tones of carbon dioxide emissions.
But while it may generate a lot of power once it is going, the development will also generate a lot of carbon dioxide from just the 4,282 truck and 4000 car movements expected during construction.
“Part of the assessment process is that we have had to look at the carbon emissions used in the manufacture and installation of the windfarm, and calculate how long it will take for that to be offset,” Connell Wagner representative Katrina Donlan said.
“Surprisingly, while there is a lot of steel in the towers and concrete, in the average windfarm the offset is only three to four months.”
Ms Donlan said one of the major challenges will be getting materials to the site – no easy feat, given the rotor blades will have to lie on a trailer 50m long, she said.
“The preferred access to the site will be from the former Gwydir Highway alignment, which is actually in pretty good condition.”
National Power vice president of development Colin Paterson said while an extra five turbines had been added since the initial proposal, this was the maximum that could be put on the site.
When questioned why a community consultation was held so close to Christmas giving the impression that the developers were trying to rush the project through the public submissions stage, Mr Paterson told the Examiner that the consultation was initially planned for early January.
“When we come back in after Christmas we will be busy getting the document ready, people won’t be around in January (due to holidays) so it was better to do it now,” he said.
Mr Paterson said it was expected that a development application would be filed with the NSW Department of Planning this week, with the department to review the application by the end of January. Following another period of public exhibition, the Minster for Planning is expected to approve the project in March 2008.
If it proceeds the windfarm is expected to employ 50 people during construction, and three people full time once operational.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS MAY BE BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND
A representative of a company behind the proposed windfarm admits there are two classes of landholders affected – those who accept the look and noise of turbines because they will getting financial rewards for leasing land for turbines, and those who get no financial benefit but will be forced to look at, and listen to, them.
In terms of the properties on which the turbines would be located, Mr Paterson claimed turbines would not diminish the value of the farming property as they can co-exist with existing grazing activities.
“We believe it actually increases the assets (of the farm) as (the rent from the turbines) bring an additional income (to the property),” he said.
For the 10 residences within 2km of the nearest turbines and a further 17 within 3km, the noise impact was below the legal limit of 35 decibels, Mr Paterson told the Examiner – a claim disputed by Phil Evans of ‘Highfields’ Hillside Road, whose property was one of two where sound studies were done.
“We felt we didn’t get everything we needed to know (from the public exhibition). The results of the noise study showed it was actually above EPA (Environmental Protection Authority) guidelines, but even these results were just averaged out – I would have liked to have seen a bell curve to give a more accurate reading, and I really think that would have scared a lot of people,” he said.
Mr Evans said he would be seeking the developers provide an audio tape that reflected the type and decibels of sound that would be emitted. He also believes the value of his property would decrease considerably.
“The people who have got the towers will get money out of it, but I spoke to three estate agents who said they were sure it would devalue our property, although the proponents said this hadn’t been the case (near windfarms) down south.
“When I saw the photos it opened my eyes up a lot. These things are bloody big and I guess we won’t know the true effect until they are there,” he said.
Suzanne McAlary and Ashley Peake, who also had a sound monitoring system test conducted at their property, agreed.
“It was very difficult to get the information from them about the sound. Apart from the noise will be the flickering shadow when the sun passes behind the turbines – and they were also pretty cagey about just how many trees will be lost and the impact of other work that needs to be done,” she said.
“I don’t think the community understands just how big they will be.”
However Julie Sheedy of the property ‘Rose Vale’, where up to nine turbines are planned, said she and her husband Rex had been very happy with the consultation process.
“”We’ve been pretty much in the loop all the time so we didn’t have any other questions. They’ve been very good to deal with – very honest and upfront,” Mrs Sheedy said.
By Naomi Davidson and Tim Hughes
18 December 2007