What is a Renewable Energy Park?   Renewable Energy Park is a term used to describe a renewable energy operation with a range of generating sources.

IMG_3212Wind turbines will be the primary form of energy generation at both the Robbins Island and Jim’s Plain Renewable Energy Parks. UPC Renewables Australia are investigating the potential to install both solar and battery storage to complement wind energy generation at both Parks.

 When will the planning and environmental approval documentation be lodged? The approval documentation for Jim’s Plain, a Development Proposal and Environmental Management Plan (DPEMP) is expected to be lodged with Circular Head Council and the EPA by mid-2018.

The approval documentation for Robbins Island, also in the form of a DPEMP, is expected to be lodged with Circular Head Council and the EPA by the end of 2018.

What is included in the development assessment process?  Each of the two Renewable Energy Park projects will need at least three different approvals:

  • Approval of a Development Proposal and Environmental Management Plan by the EPA Tasmania (State Government)
  • Approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Federal Government)
  • Planning approval from the Circular Head Council

These processes are used to assess a range of projects across both Australia and Tasmania, and require comprehensive assessment of any changes in environmental and social factors, including both positive and negative impacts.

Both sites have had previous assessments of natural values, including flora, terrestrial fauna and avifauna. To build on existing information, further surveys are planned to better understand the current environmental and social characteristics around both project sites, including:

  • Flora and terrestrial fauna;
  • Avifauna (including eagles and migratory shorebirds);
  • Aboriginal and European heritage; and
  • Marine environmental assessment.

UPC Renewables Australia will also be undertaking a range of engineering studies to inform design for the turbines and ancillary infrastructure. This includes geotechnical, seismic and bathymetric surveys and data collection and assessment of the wind resource on both sites.

IMG_3374When will construction commence?  Prior to construction, UPC Renewables Australia are undertaking further work to better understand the wind resource on both Parks, and conduct environmental studies and surveys. This information will be used to determine the most appropriate sites for wind turbines. Additionally, there are a range of environmental and development approvals required for both Parks.

Work on project approvals and wind resource modelling has commenced, and it is anticipated that the preliminary design for both sites will be completed in mid to late 2018, with submission of assessment documents to EPA Tasmania and Circular Head Council.

Once a turbine layout has been approved, construction will commence on a rolling basis. Construction on Jim’s Plain is expected to commence in 2020 and on Robbins Island in 2021.

IMG_3314Will renewable energy lead to a power price increase?  Currently renewables are the cheapest form of generation when you look to build new generation. Many factors contribute to household electricity costs including aging poles and wires, retirement of coal fired power stations, and metering and retail services.  Simple market economics suggest that prices should decrease as supply increase. However, changes in power prices are generally independent of individual projects.

Why are there new wind masts on both sites?  Wind masts are important for collecting data on wind speed and direction on both sites. The wind data will be key to determining the nature of the wind resource and designing the wind turbine layout for both Parks.

The existing wind masts are 15 years old, and require replacement to collect wind data. This revised wind data will be used to inform design and layout for both wind farm sites.

It is anticipated that three new wind masts will be installed on Robbins Island between December 2017 and February 2018, and a new wind mast will be installed at Jim’s Plain in February 2018. The existing wind masts at both sites will be removed.

What are the benefits of these projects?  Together the Robbins Island and Jim’s Plain projects are expected to cost between $1.3 – $1.6 billion dollars to develop and construct. This is a significant investment in the context of the Circular Head region and Tasmania more broadly, and provides substantial opportunities for expansion of businesses and generation of new employment.

The scale of generating capacity from both projects is potentially transformative for Tasmania’s energy industry, as they will make a substantial contribution to Tasmania’s future energy generation capacity.

Initial estimates for the Robbins Island and Jim’s Plain Renewable Energy Parks indicate that they would generate enough renewable energy to power up to 600,000 homes.

The construction and operation of the two Renewable Energy Parks are anticipated to generate significant employment opportunities, and prospects for goods and services from range of businesses. Typical goods and services likely to be sourced locally during construction and operation of the projects include:IMG_0357

  • Accommodation & catering
  • Engineering
  • Construction materials and equipment
  • Local labour
  • Earthworks services
  • Fencing and landscaping

Robbins Island is expected to:

  • Generate up to 300 jobs over a two to three-year construction period.
  • Employ up to 50 full time permanent jobs once operational.

Jim’s Plain is expected to:

  • Generate up to 150-200 jobs over a two-year construction period.
  • Employ up to 10-15 full time permanent jobs once operational

Will you take into consideration the views from existing properties?  Given the distance of both Jim’s Plain and Robbins Island from existing houses, the visual impact is expected to be less than that of other wind farms. However, the nature and size of the wind turbines mean that some visual impact will be unavoidable, and a visual impact assessment will be conducted as part of the assessment process for both Parks.

The visual impact assessment follows a detailed methodology, including on-site assessments, consultation with the community regarding landscape values, and the preparation of photo montages to show the visual effect of the proposal.

It is anticipated that the turbine colour chosen for the proposal will be as neutral as possible to abide requirements of regulators and the community. The colour chosen is generally white to blend in with the background landscape as much as possible.

IMG_0303Will potential impacts on flora and fauna be considered in the planning for the Renewable Energy Park?  Both projects will be required to obtain State and Federal environmental approvals, which include impacts on threatened flora and fauna.

A number of assessments have been undertaken for both projects previously, and UPC Australia is working to update these surveys, as part of approval documentation for both Renewable Energy Parks.

The recommendations of these reports, and any conditions of approvals, will be considered during the design and development of both Parks, including micro-siting of turbines (and other infrastructure) to minimise clearance of native vegetation, fauna habitat and other key environmental features.

Both Parks will be required to meet conditions from both the State Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Department of the Environment and Energy to ensure that any potential concerns with threatened species and other environmental matters are adequately addressed prior to construction.

Can wind turbine noise affect local residents?   Given the distance that the Robbins Island and Jim’s Plain developments are from ‘neighbours’, noise is not expected to be an issue. However, a noise assessment will be conducted as part of the assessment process for both Parks.

Before it can operate, a wind farm has to demonstrate that noise levels at neighbouring residences will meet strict noise limits which are set by the EPA.

Due to the distance of both projects to existing dwellings, it is likely that changes in the noise environment for residents around both projects will be minimal.

These limits are designed to ensure that the noise from a wind farm is not intrusive for the average person.

Who will own the Renewable Energy Parks? Are they Australian owned?  UPC Renewables Australia is a rapidly growing Tasmanian-based company, with employees located across Australia. They have their sights set on growing renewables across Australia and are investing significant private funding into these projects. UPC Renewables Australia is owned by UPC Renewables which is a privately owned company with 90% of the company owned by US, Dutch and UK passport holders.

UPC Renewables have a long history of owning and operating wind farms in ten countries across the world. Their core business is in the development, construction and operation of wind farm projects.  This sets them apart from many wind farm developers, who aim to get a project to the shovel-ready phase, and on-sell permits to another party. UPC Renewables may sell a portion of constructed project to enable them to fund further development however they would retain operational control of the project.

IMG_3198Will Robbins Passage remain open for recreational and other use?  Currently, UPC Renewables Australia are investigating the potential for a combined causeway and bridge crossing to enable vehicles to cross Robbins Passage. UPC and GHD are currently undertaking environmental and engineering investigations to determine the viability of constructing a crossing over Robbins Passage.

If the project does include a crossing of Robbins Passage, it will include a number of bridge structures to allow tidal flows to pass though. This would include appropriate clearance under the bridge over the main channel for recreational vessels.

What kind of transmission lines will the project require? Where will they go?  UPC Renewables Australia are currently working with TasNetworks on connecting these Parks to the transmission network.

There are a range of options to connect both projects to the existing transmission network, ranging from connection to the second Bass Strait interconnector (to Victoria); a transmission line from the Circular Head region to Burnie or Sheffield; and or upgrades at Smithton.

Resolving the final transmission lines for these projects will involve range of considerations (including environmental, social and economic) and key stakeholders (including TasNetworks, landholders and planning authorities). UPC Renewables Australia is committed to consultation with affected landowners to ensure that their views are considered in the planning process for transmission lines.

How many turbines are included in the proposal?  The exact number of turbines is still to be determined in the project development process. This will be determined based on wind resource; available technology; and environmental and social considerations.

At this stage, it is envisaged that Jim’s Plain would have up to 40 turbines, with generation capacity of up to 160MW. Robbins Island is significantly larger, with up to 200 turbines, with a generation capacity of 400 to 1000 MW, which would make this Park one of the largest wind farms in Australia.

The number of turbines is subject to change, based on the wind resource and environmental factors. Additionally, there have been significant advances in wind turbine technology in recent years, meaning that more productive turbines can deliver a higher energy output per unit. By the time that both Parks are constructed, technological advances mean that the Parks can achieve the same generating capacity with fewer turbines, reducing the overall footprint of the projects.

What is shadow flicker?  Shadow flicker is the change in light level experienced from a wind turbine blade rotating between the sun and an observer. A conservative model of shadow flicker can be developed using details of the relative positions of the sun throughout the year, the wind turbines at the site, and the viewer.

A shadow flicker assessment will be conducted as part of the as part of the assessment process, Development Proposal and Environmental Management Plan and Development Application for the proposal.