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Construction of Ararat wind farm closer

Construction of the Ararat Wind Farm by RES Australia is expected to commence sometime within the next 12 to 18 months.

The wind farm will comprise 75 turbines, 70 of which will be located in Ararat Rural City and five in Northern Grampians Shire.

The majority of the site is located between Warrak Road and the Pyrenees Highway, with a secondary site on the other side of the Pyrenees Highway comprising 11 turbines, including the five in the Northern Grampians Shire.

The turbines will be located between nine and 17 kilometres from Ararat. It is expected the height of the turbines will reach 135 metres to the tip of the blades (Challicum Hills Wind Farm turbines are 100 metres in height), and they have been designed to sit on the ridges of the hills in the project area.

RES Australia head of development in Australia Annette Deveson, who visited Ararat this week has recently relocated to Australia from the United Kingdom to move the project forward towards the construction phase.

Ms Deveson said the company has been waiting for some time to have the transmission line consented from the wind farm to Elmhurst where it connects to the main gridline.

“We’ve got consent from the Ararat council and we are just waiting for the consent notice to be issued from the Pyrenees Council, so once that comes through we’ve got everything fully consented, we’ve got the wind farm consent and the gridline consent, the two important aspects to have in place,” Ms Deveson said.

The project will then move forward over the next few months, with Ms Deveson indicating that the next stream of work would involve applying for the secondary consents and getting the planning conditions complied with, such as cultural heritage, landscaping and transport management plans.

Ms Deveson said coupled with that, work on the final design of the project and turbine selection will be carried out.

The 75 turbines are located on 18 private landholdings, involving 13 families, with up to 17 turbines located on one property.

“It is a really good area (for a wind farm) and all of the local landowners have been brilliant,” Ms Deveson said.

“I’ve been round to see them all over the course of the last month and all are really supportive and on board and are a really good bunch of people.

“They’re all raring and ready to go and hoping it happens sooner rather than later.”

Ms Deveson said she has heard positive talk around town about the project, with very few objections, and also said Ararat Rural City Council have been supportive of the project.

“Throughout the course of the planning history I don’t think there’s been a large body of people objecting, there’s been a few, but not anything major.

“I think it’s the experience of (already) having a wind farm nearby.”

Once construction of the wind farm commences the time frame to completion will be around two years.

Ms Deveson said the company was currently undertaking site investigation work, which will form the foundation design that then informs the overall time frame of the project.

“We have got some investigation work starting up over the course of the next month, locals may see a drilling rig and trenching going on. This will inform us on a deeper level of what the ground conditions are like,” she said.

RES Australia endeavours to employ locally, with the company ensuring that the contractors employed on the wind farm will be sourced locally where possible.

Ms Deveson said RES was a responsible, family-owned company, based just outside of London, part of the McAlpine construction company, which is also family owned.

RES has built over six gigawatts of wind energy projects globally, with offices in the United States, the UK, Australia and other locations in Europe.

“One of the key things for us is taking the local community seriously and making sure we liaise with the local community and keep them informed about what’s going on,” Ms Deveson said.

“We will be doing that over the course of time, and once things shape up and we get the next stage of planning and design through and we’re getting closer to the date of construction going to start, we will inform the local community in terms of what’s going on.”

Once the wind farm is operational, RES will also look at setting up a Community Fund, similar to the Pacific Hydro Sustainable Communities Fund attached to the Challicum Hills Wind Farm.

Ms Deveson said the wind farm will also provide benefits and a source of income to the landholders involved.

“It will be a big benefit to the local farmers and help support the farming economy, providing income for them.

“As one of them put it ‘It’s about time I got something out of this bit of old land’.”