FAQ's

Technology

How is a wind farm location chosen?

The key criteria include an adequate wind resource, sufficient quantity of land, suitable terrain and close proximity to transmission lines (with capacity to receive the power), limited environmental issues (e.g. sensitive habitats or species), minimal historic and cultural sensitivity (e.g. preservation areas or artefacts) and a supportive community and landowners.

How much electricity does a wind turbine produce?

Most current wind turbines in Australia are rated at approximately 2 megawatts (MW) each and this produces enough electricity to power around 1500 households per year. The new generation of turbines are rated at 3 MW or more and will produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of around 2000 homes each year. The larger turbines produce power at a lower cost to the consumer on a smaller land footprint.

How reliable is the operation of wind turbines today?

Wind turbines are available to produce energy approximately 97 percent of the time. Reliability of wind turbines typically means the proportion of time they are on line and ready to produce electricity. Excluding external influences on turbine availability such as grid outages, wind turbines demonstrate very high reliability.

Can the energy produced by a wind farm be predicted in advance?

Yes. It is important to predict energy production in order to determine the long-term commercial viability of a wind farm. The characteristics of the wind resource directly impacts how much energy a wind farm produces. Strong, consistent winds are excellent producers of energy. Accurate data that measures the wind resource as it varies over seasons and over years is recorded using on-site wind measurement equipment called an anemometer. This data is then matched with wind measurements taken from the locality such as from airports.

In order to supply the National Electricity Market, wind farm operators also estimate the wind farms energy output one hour in advance for each 5 minute period of supply. This is achieved by using sophisticated short term forecasting models that interpret weather information as it affects the wind farm in real time.

How does wind energy contribute to the National Electricity Market?

Wind energy produces large amounts of clean electricity that is directly fed into the National Electricity Market. The electricity produced by wind turbines is exactly the same as the electricity produced by other forms of conventional power generation such as coal or gas, except that there are no greenhouse gases or other pollution produced when wind energy is generated. Wind energy provides electricity to help power industry, homes and help to reduce the overall greenhouse gas intensity of the National Electricity Market.

What happens when the wind doesn't blow?

The National Electricity Market is very carefully managed to ensure that electricity is always available to homes and businesses when it is needed. Generators of all forms of electricity are required to comply with very strict regulations that govern how each one contributes electricity. When the wind at a particular wind farm decreases, other forms of electricity generation including wind farms in other locations continue to make electricity.

Do wind farms need special back up?

No, wind farms do not need special back up. The National Electricity Market is managed to ensure there is always electricity available if supply is interrupted. The National Electricity Market ensures that quick start generation, such as gas or hydro, is always on standby for this kind of event. 

How efficient are wind turbine generators?

A wind turbine generator uses very efficient technology. The turbine converts almost all of the energy in the wind to electricity.

The capacity factor is the percentage of time that a wind turbine generator is producing electricity at the optimum amount for which it was designed. i.e. the rated capacity. For example, a 40 percent capacity factor means that over a year, a wind turbine generator’s output is the equivalent of it operating at its optimum energy production for 40 percent of the year. Australia enjoys a very reliable, strong consistent wind resource, so the capacity factor of our wind farms are considered very high by world standards.

What is HVDC technology?

High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission is a state-of-the-art power system designed to efficiently transmit power underground, under water and also over long distances. Buried beneath the sea floor, HVDC offers numerous environmental benefits, including "invisible" power lines, neutral electromagnetic fields, oil-free cables and compact converter stations.

In its simplest form, HVDC technology works by converting traditional AC power to DC form, transporting it via special cable and re-converting back into AC form. Typical applications include connecting wind farms to power grids, underground power links, providing shore power supplies to islands and offshore oil & gas platforms, connecting asynchronous grids and city centre in-feed.

What is the difference between AC and DC?

“AC" stands for "Alternating Current" and "DC" for "Direct Current". The magnetic field surrounding a DC cable is constant, much like that of the Earth's own magnetic field. DC current flows steadily in a single direction whereas AC current continuously switches direction, alternating between going 'forward' and going 'backward'.  

Where is HVDC technology being used?

HVDC is used around the world. In Australia, HVDC systems are installed between Queensland and New South Wales, Murraylink between South Australia and Victoria, as well as the Basslink cable linking the Victorian and Tasmanian grids.

Why is HVDC technology being proposed?

The HVDC system will provide an efficient, direct and secure connection into a capital centre delivering approximately 17 percent of Adelaide’s electricity needs. HVDC provides a ‘network friendly’ connection to the SA power system in terms of power quality and system stability, together with numerous other social and aesthetic benefits to the local community.

What are the benefits of HVDC?

HVDC is state-of-the-art power transmission technology that is environmentally friendly and transmits power using underground and submarine cables. It is particularly useful in today's electrical networks where systems need to be flexible, allow for large variations and frequent changes in supply and demand, and meet tougher environmental regulations and community acceptance standards.

Some environmental benefits include:

  • transmission of renewable energy resources;
  • static magnetic fields are virtually eliminated since HVDC cables are laid in pairs with DC currents in opposite directions;
  • no risk of oil spill;
  • the cable insulation is polyethylene (PE) based and is not dangerous;
  • the cable metals can be reused;
  • no visual impact;
  • no ground current;
  • no fluctuating electromagnetic fields;
  • low losses - HVDC cables are generally much more efficient for long distance transmissions than AC cables, particularly for high power;

  • long lifetime - the inherent lifetime of insulating materials is better for HVDC than for AC; 
  • no audible noise, unlike overhead lines.

 

Socio-economic Aspects

How does the local town, county, or municipality benefit from wind farm development?

Wind farms bring significant financial benefit to local communities in several ways. Wind farms inject revenue into a local area through the direct payment to landholders hosting the wind turbines. A wind farm developer may also establish special financial packages to support community initiatives. A wind farm makes only a very small demand on existing town and local government area public services (such as water, sewer, fire, and road maintenance).

Direct economic benefits also flow from the creation of new jobs to construct the wind farm as well as ongoing jobs necessary for its operation. Transport companies, earthmoving contractors, hotels, restaurants, and other service industries will also see increases in business throughout the construction and operation of the wind farm.

How many jobs are typically created by a new wind power project during construction and during operation? What types of jobs are created? Can local labour be used?

During Construction: Employment during construction varies by project size and by specific construction activities. Generally wind energy project construction work is performed over a 12 to 18 month period. Most elements of a conventional construction labour force are employed to build wind energy projects. The wind turbine supplier is typically responsible for transport, delivery and installation of the tower sections, nacelle and rotor. Teams of personnel trained by the turbine supplier, as well as local labour, are engaged to complete these tasks.

Local or regional construction companies are commonly retained for balance-of-plant construction work (roads, foundations, electrical collection system, substation, etc).

During Operation: The number of staff needed to operate and maintain the wind farms varies depending on the project size, location, equipment type, and management approach. Maintenance personnel usually have a background in mechanical or electrical/electronic trades. With these skills, they can be readily trained in wind power mechanical and electrical systems in order to undertake maintenance. Approximately one operation and maintenance position is created for every five turbines, with other staff required to support the operation of large wind farms.

The proposed Ceres Project is expected to generate in the vicinity of 500 jobs during construction and up to 50 ongoing during the operation period of 25 years.

How does the landowner benefit?

Host landowners benefit directly from annual lease payments throughout the project's operating life. Landholders are also able to continue using approximately 98% of the land for its existing purpose. This means that for land already in production (e.g. farming or cropping), the landowner receives two revenue streams.

How does a wind power project affect property values?

The most recent and comprehensive Australian study on land values and wind farms was conducted by the New South Wales Valuer General in late 2009. This study found that there was no statistically significant trend to indicate that Australian wind farms have a negative effect on property values. This statement is in line with general findings from a number of international studies which showed no overall impact on land values. These studies include an analysis from the United States of 25,000 property transactions within 8 kilometres of 10 operating wind farms ; another US analysis of 7,500 sales within 10 miles of 24 wind farms in 9 USA states ; and a UK analysis of 919 transactions within 8km of 2 operating wind farms .

How are wind farms designed to avoid affecting TV, radio, or mobile phone reception?

Electromagnetic interference is studied when developing a wind farm site to ensure that mobile reception is maintained in the area. In fact, mobile phones are often the main means of communication used on wind energy projects. In designing a wind farm site, careful consideration must be taken by the wind farm developer to ensure wind turbines do not interfere with radio or TV signals. Any potential impact identified during the wind farm's design phase can be rectified by improving the receiver's antenna or installing relays to transmit the signal around the wind farm. Satellite television is not affected.

For communities and people in close proximity to a wind power project, what were the reactions before the wind power project was built? How did reactions change after construction?

Based on studies conducted internationally (Gipe, 1995 and Pasqualetti, 2002), support for wind projects generally increases after installation. The results showed that in areas where pre-construction support was high, it remained high after construction. In areas where pre-construction support was low or medium, it increased following project completion. Many people are still relatively unfamiliar with wind energy projects in Australia and discover afterwards that their initial concerns aren't as significant as first thought.

How are wind farms in Australia designed to ensure noise impacts are managed?

There is a very stringent approval process for every wind farm development and Australia uses some of the toughest noise standards for wind farms in the world. To satisfy the relevant planning approval guidelines, wind turbines are required to produce no more than 35dBA, or 5dBA greater than background noise levels. Most residences will experience noise levels of less than or equal to this very low level. Ongoing monitoring of noise levels is undertaken after construction and throughout the life of the wind farm to ensure the turbines meet the approved noise levels.

What is infrasound from and does it impact people's health?

Infrasound is everywhere. It is the sound produced by most activities that occur in the rural and urban environment that humans are unable to hear. While there is nothing unusual about the noise or infrasound produced by wind turbines, there has been claims that infrasound from wind farms causes ill health.

A study undertaken by SONUS in 2010 showed that a wind turbine at 100m creates lower infrasound levels than that found in a city and much lower than that produced by the waves recorded on the beach.

The World Health Organisation, National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, Australian Senate and other government inquiries, UK Health Association, Chief Medical Health Officers and other peak health bodies have said that there is no scientific evidence to show a causal link between wind farms and health impacts from infrasound.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) concluded that "there is no reliable evidence that sounds beneath the hearing threshold produce physiological or psychological effects".

Australia's peak health and medical research and advisory group, the National Health and Medical Research Council, released a study and public statement in July 2010 which said: "There is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects". The 2011 Australian Senate inquiry, 'The Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms', concluded that there are no causal links between wind farms and ill health.

Can we see how the wind farm looks before it is built?

Wind developers produce photo montages that allow the community to see how a wind farm will appear in the landscape. These images are provided to the communities and nearby landholders to give an upfront appreciation for how the wind turbines will look in the local area.

How are wind turbines located so that they don't produce shadows on nearby dwellings?

As part of project layout analysis, computer models calculate the shadow zones around wind turbines during different times of the day and during different seasons to uncover affected areas. Wind turbines are consequently placed at locations where they do not unacceptably overshadow residences.

Are turbines required to have lights?

This varies depending upon the location of the proposed wind farm. Fixing lights to turbines generally only occurs in cases where a particular aviation hazard has been identified. As part of the permitting process an Aviation Risk Assessment will be conducted for The Ceres Project on the Yorke Peninsula to determine any requirement for aviation lighting.

Environmental Impacts

How are wind farms designed to reduce impacts to birds and bats?

Great care is taken during the planning and construction of wind farms to minimise the effect on the surrounding environment and local wildlife. Compared to bird deaths from collisions with buildings, electricity lines, cars, pesticides, communication towers and feral cats, the death rate of birds due to wind turbines in Australia is very small.

Most birds easily fly around wind turbines without problem, but it is most important to study the ecology in a proposed wind farm area to be sure that bird populations will not be affected in the unfortunate event that a bird is killed. The wildlife studies and habitat protection that accompany wind farms can even result in a benefit to nearby bird populations.

If threatened or endangered birds and bat species do live around or migrate through a wind farm, very stringent regulation applies to ensure that any impacts are minimal. Many wind farm operators are required to implement a monitoring program during key times such as migration or breeding to oversee potential issues.

How do wind power projects affect the habitat of ground animals?

During operation, the increased presence of human activity may alter animal behaviour; however, these effects are minor compared to other forms of development.

Are there any wastes from the wind turbines and if so, how are these managed?

Turbines require small amounts of lubricating oils, grease, hydraulic and insulating fluids (within electrical transformers). When spent, these materials are handled and managed in accordance with hazardous materials and solid waste regulations. Lubrication oils are returned to the suppliers for recycling. Otherwise, properly maintained wind projects do not produce hazardous waste nor emit radiation, particulate matter, or greenhouse gases.

Do new wind farms displace coal and gas fired power generation?

Yes. Energy market experts, SKM MMA , found in New South Wales that due to the way the state's electricity market operates, every additional unit of wind power injected into the NSW grid "almost exclusively" displaces a unit of coal and gas fired power, therefore reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

How long does it take to re-coup the energy used to build a wind farm?

It takes a modern wind farm between three and six months to repay the energy used in its production, construction and decommissioning

Health and Safety

How are wind turbines kept secure?

Wind turbines have locked doors at the tower base and on all transformers precluding the ability of a non-authorised person to access the operating equipment. Substations and interconnection points are always fenced. A fence may be used around the operation and maintenance building, depending on its location.

How is fire safety managed at a wind farm?

Wind turbines are monitored around the clock and protocols are implemented to enable rapid response in the rare event that a turbine experiences a fault. If a wind turbine catches fire, staff personnel and fire personnel maintain a safety area around the turbine and protect against the potential for spot ground fires until the fire is out. Power to the section of the project with the turbine fire is also disconnected.

How are wind farms insured?

Wind farm operators maintain all the relevant business insurance policies to operate and maintain the wind farm. These insurances include but are not limited to; Public & Product liability, Fire, Machinery breakdown and Business Interruption.

Land Control and Landowner Information

How much space does a typical wind energy project utilize during construction and during operation?

Wind farms usually occupy between 1 and 5 percent of each project area, including the footprint of all infrastructure. The vast majority of this area is needed by access tracks.

Does a wind power project have an effect on crop yield?

No. Any land not directly used for turbine structures, facilities, and access roads is available for other uses, as long as it does not significantly decrease the wind resource at the project.

Will the turbines be removed if the wind farm no longer is required?

Removal of wind turbines is called Decommissioning. Decommission clauses in lease agreements typically require the wind turbines and associated above ground infrastructure to be removed if the wind farm becomes redundant. Provisions for returning the land to its original state may also be included and defined in the land lease agreement.

Why 'Section 49, Crown Development' support for the project?

The Ceres Project proposal is unique by virtue of the fact that it transcends (with the HVDC submarine cable connection) a geographic footprint in excess of 70 kilometres - including land and sea ecology. The characteristics of this footprint stretch over two councils. Therefore, overlapping regulatory and permitting jurisdiction compelled the Project to seek a broader Crown Development process.

What types of studies are typically required by planning authorities when a wind farm project application is being assessed?

The types of studies required by planning authorities vary depending on the local land use regulations, state regulations, type of land impacted (state, federal, etc.), and sources of project funding. In South Australia the studies required will be specified by the Development Assessment Commission to obtain development approval and study requirements will involve a detailed Environmental Assessment Report. Typically, project developers prepare project documentation or assessments that examine the potential impacts on air, hydrology, visual amenity, aviation use, ecology, land use, heritage, traffic, electromagnetic interference and acoustics. Other studies may be required as indicated by the regulatory authority based on specific site conditions.

What type of community consultation is undertaken?

Engagement with the local community is critical to the success of the Ceres Project and conditional to the requirements of 'Section 49, Crown Development' support.

A Community Engagement and Benefit Sharing Plan is being developed to ensure that open dialogue and information transfer can occur with landowners, local residents, stakeholders and the wider community in an efficient manner during the development phase of the project. The objectives of the community engagement process will be to:

  • ensure that all stakeholders (local, State, Commonwealth governments, landowners, residents, non-government groups) are provided with accurate and relevant information on The Ceres Project;
  • ensure that Senvion understands any issues of concern to the community;
  • demonstrate how all social and environmental impacts of the Complex will be managed;
  • maintain transparency in the project design and permitting process;
  • identify opportunities for local business involvement in the implementation of the project;
  • provide feedback on how input from the local community will influence the final project.

How many landowners are involved in The Ceres Project?

35.

How will the wind farm be impacted by local Mining Exploration?

The Ceres Project will assess the current and possible future mining operations which may extend to Project land. If those operations have the potential to significantly affect the Project, those involved will consider negotiating an agreement with the mining operator to deal with the issue. The project will carefully consider all mining issues to ensure it has the best possible protection as an 'owner' under the Mining Act.

Native Title and Aboriginal Heritage

The provisions of the Aboriginal Heritage Act apply to all land in South Australia.

Section 23 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act makes it an offence to damage, disturb or interfere with an Aboriginal site, object or remains or remove an object or remains from where they are found, unless this is done with the authorisation of the relevant Minister. The Ceres Project will comply with the provisions of the Aboriginal Heritage Act and may seek an Aboriginal heritage agreement to assist in managing the risk of offending against the provisions of the Act. The Project will work closely with the Narungga and Kaurna people and their relevant associations to ensure observance of Aboriginal heritage interests.To the extent the Project itself is located on land where native title has not been validly extinguished, Yorke Peninsula Wind Farm Project Pty Ltd will comply with native title obligations.

Wind farms and the construction process

Do wind farm projects contribute to the maintenance and upgrading of roads in the local area?

Wind power projects have in some cases led to road upgrades where the existing infrastructure has not been adequate for truck transport requirements. Payment is negotiated with local governments and is normally related to the requirements of the wind farm.

Once construction is complete, will the construction areas, including construction roads, be restored to their original condition?

Those portions of the site not needed for plant operation are restored to their original condition. Roads built for construction are left in place and used as access roads to the project site and turbine locations. Generally the construction process results in improved roads and access on site.

Electricity

Can my house or business receive power exclusively from the wind turbines?

When a home is connected to the network, it isn’t possible for any particular electricity user to know exactly where their electricity is from.

Electricity generated from wind farms is delivered around the national electricity grid via the transmission and distribution lines. Electricity generated by wind turbines is not distinguishable from electricity from other forms of generation. Electricity can be purchased from a wind farm operator, for example through the Green Power program, and the wind farm owner will guarantee that the agreed amount of energy will be delivered to the grid. The customer will not receive that electricity directly but can be certain an equivalent amount of renewable electricity is being fed into the system.

What drives demand for Australian wind energy?

Demand for wind energy is driven by a number of different factors. The most important driver for wind energy is the Renewable Energy Target. This is a Commonwealth Government mandatory requirement. The Large Scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET) requires that electricity wholesalers purchase a certain portion of electricity from utility scale renewable energy sources such as wind farms. This is then sold onto the retail and industrial markets.

As older power stations reach the end of their life, and electricity consumption increases in line with population growth, utilities must meet customer demand by adding new generation - some of which will be wind energy.

Does wind energy play an important role in meeting Australia's electricity requirements?

Wind energy helps to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of Australia's electricity, which is very high by world standards; at present most of Australia's electricity is generated by coal fired power stations. Wind energy is sometimes referred to as negative demand . When the wind is blowing the electricity generated is automatically delivered to the national electricity market. This means that the overall volume of demand is smaller than it would otherwise have been without the electricity from wind farms.

Most other conventional generation such as coal, gas and hydro have to auction their electricity into a smaller market so they have to bid with more competitive prices. The overall effect is a reduced electricity price.Unlike coal-fired and hydro electricity generation, wind energy uses no water. There is also no fuel cost which, particularly with gas, is expected to rise significantly over the coming years as Australia's demand for gas must compete on an international scale.

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