A remote island off Tasmania’s north-west coast could become one of the largest wind farms in the Southern Hemisphere, but only if Tasmania gets a second Bass Strait power interconnector.
The Australian arm of UPC Renewables, an American company, has set up 110-metre-high wind monitoring towers to gather data on where to place the turbines.
It has entered into an agreement with the island’s private landowners to build a wind farm on their property.
UPC Renewables Australia plans to build as many as 300 turbines on the island and nearby Jims Plains, which is on the Tasmanian mainland.
The $850 million project will generate about 450 megawatts, making it the largest of its kind in the state.
At full capacity they could generate enough energy for 250,000 homes, more homes than there are in Tasmania.
“We have a world-class wind resource here which means when we install our power we’ll be making power at what we believe will be a very low cost to everyday Australians,” UPC Renewables Australia CEO Anton Rohner said.
UPC said its long-term goal was to get approval to develop a second Bass Strait interconnector, enabling the company to double the size of the project.
At 1,000 megawatts, it would produce enough power for half a million homes – or nearly the size of the city of Adelaide.
“The wind farm we’re proposing is going to be, we believe, one of the largest in the southern hemispheres if not Australia,” Mr Rohner said.
New Bass Strait cable needed
Building a second interconnector requires regulatory approval which could push back the prospect of such an expansion of the farm well into the next decade.
Energy Minister Guy Barnett said he hoped the second interconnector received approval.
“The second interconnector will be essential to maximising the investment of up to $1.6 billion here in Tasmania to make this work and work to its capacity,” he said.
In November, the State Government committed $20 million on a business case study into developing a second interconnector.
The results of that study are not expected for at least a year.
Concerns have been raised about the potential costs of building an interconnector.
UPC Renewables has said it would fund the building of such an interconnector through third party private investment if it was granted approval.
The existing undersea cable failed in 2016, which when combined with low dam levels, cause an energy crisis in the state and sparked a parliamentary inquiry.
Island owners looking to future
Robbins Island is synonymous with Wagyu beef cattle, which cross the saltwater gap that separates the patch of earth from mainland Tasmania.
The 10,000 hectare island is owned by the Hammond family, who have been cattle farming for four generations.
John Hammond said the towers brought the family’s 17-year dream of having a wind farm on their land one step closer, and that a nearby project near Woolnorth inspired them.
“Seventeen years ago we were watching what was happening at Woolnorth when Hydro Tasmania started to put the first turbines in there,” he said.
“We realised the same wind that blows over that wind farm blows over this island.
“We see this as another way to farm, and another way to diversify, another way to sort of help keep the property in the next generation.
“This project will probably help us keep the island in the family for next four or five generations.”
UPC Renewables said it expected the first wind turbine to be built and ready on the island in about two years, and that the entire site would be operational around 2023.
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