A huge wind farm on the Yorke Peninsula will inject about $8 million a year into the district and pave the way for the National Broadband Network to be rolled out years ahead of schedule, project developers say.
The $1.3 billion Ceres project, with 199 wind turbines, would be the biggest in Australia and drive down electricity prices, developer REpower said.
The project has reached a critical milestone – a 1600-page development application has been lodged with the State Government and a series of public forums will begin on Sunday.
REpower’s head of development, Peter Sgardelis, said the application included consultants’ reports on noise and aerial impacts, the environment, marine and cultural heritage.
“This is one of the most comprehensive development applications for a wind farm anywhere in Australia,” Mr Sgardelis said.
REPower, backed by Indian renewable energy giant Suzlon, proposes erecting the turbines over 18,000 ha west of Black Point, about halfway down the peninsula.
The 36 landholders in the project would earn rent likely to be in the tens of thousands of dollars a year.
More than 500 workers would be needed during construction and 50 permanent jobs created.
Acting Energy Minister Michael O’Brien said while it was too early to say whether the project would get the green light from the State Government, it would bring in valuable investment.
“If the project achieves the necessary approvals it will make a positive contribution to the state’s clean-energy future and provide a boost to the local economy,” he said.
The project would generate up to 600MW of electricity – about half as much again as South Australia’s total wind power capacity or enough to power 225,000 homes.
A co-located 20MW biomass plant using straw from up to 150 farms also is being considered.
An undersea cable would be drilled under the reefs off Port Julia and laid through to St Kilda and on to Parafield Gardens West to link into the Adelaide power grid.
Cables would be undergrounded in the wind farm and all towers would be at least 1.3km from existing residences, 300m further away than legally required.
The project would require fibre-optic cable to be laid alongside the high-voltage direct current power undersea cable to control the sophisticated electronics.
The developers are sounding out the NBN to lay its own fibre-optic cable alongside theirs, greatly speeding up the broadband rollout on the peninsula. The NBN currently has only a few points on the Yorke Peninsula scheduled for connection, with most of the rollout not due until 2017-18.
The Ceres project could connect the centre of the peninsula into the NBN by 2015, opening up opportunities for local business.
These would include data centres which require large amounts of electricity and cheap land which is amenable to high security.
“We’d encourage that sort of development,” Mr Sgardelis said.
REpower has signed a memorandum about power supply to Rex Minerals which aims to develop a copper mine near Ardrossan.
“This will help both of us,” Mr Sgardelis said.
Wind strength testing on the site has shown that maximum output from the turbines would roughly coincide with the daily peak demand in SA, from afternoon to early evening.
This, plus the fact Ceres would pay for its own infrastructure and link directly into the grid without the need for extra overhead lines, would help consumers.
“It puts downward pressure on prices,” Mr Sgardelis said.
Since the project was first made public in August 2011, some landholders have been concerned that aerial crop spraying and fire-fighting would be impeded.
For the development application, consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff conducted a fire-risk assessment which suggested measures such as firebreaks, training and inspection regimes.
It noted the Country Fire Service position that wind towers do not stop aerial water bombing.
Consultants Ambidji Group concluded there would be a small impact on crop spraying.
REpower has undertaken to pay $150,000 a year into a local community fund. This scheme is still being formulated.
SA is well established as the nation’s leader in wind-farm capacity, with Lake Bonney, at 159MW, the biggest in the state.
The Development Assessment Commission will make the full application available and call for public comment in the near future.
REpower hopes to have development approval by mid-year with financing finalised by the third quarter and construction commencing before Christmas.
It aims to have the project operational by the end of 2015.
Projects of a similar size to Ceres have been mooted for Tasmania’s King Island and Penshurst in Victoria, but lag several years behind.
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