Things are starting to move at Queensland’s largest wind farm, the 180MW Mount Emerald Project near Mareeba.
Ahead of the $360 million project achieving full commercial operation in November, the first turbines have started to turn as part of a staged testing and commissioning process being conducted by project developers Ratch Australia Corporation.
The test is a significant milestone as it announces Mount Emerald’s “electrification” and follows the completion of the site’s substation and switchyard which are now energised and will connect the project’s generation to the national electricity grid.
Ratch’s EGM Business Development, Mr Anthony Yeates said getting the first of the wind turbine blades turning was a very important step for the project.
“It’s a very important milestone and is the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people over a very long period of time. We’ve now commenced generating electricity and sending it into the grid, and we’ll be ramping up the amount of generation over the next few months as additional turbines get commissioned. We’ve invested thousands of hours into site preparation and building the project and now we get to see it in action and producing electricity,” Mr Yeates said.
“It is very satisfying this has come together like we planned and it’s a great payoff for all our hard work, particularly for many local suppliers who have been with us from the start.”
While the project uses turbines by Danish manufacturer Vestas, local suppliers such as Gregg Construction, HEH Civil and Watto’s Earthmoving have left their name on the project.
“We’ve been involved in the project since 2009 where we provided some upgrades to the road into the site,” said Gregg Construction’s Ken Gregg whose company has been responsible for civil and excavation works, labour hire, ground surveys and dust suppression,” Mr Gregg said.
“We’re very proud of what we’ve done on what was a very challenging site. We share a great sense of accomplishment and we’ve felt valued by Ratch and its contractors since day one.”
Forty-four of 53 turbines have now been raised and another six partially completed while all of the 800 tonne concrete foundations have now been poured. Less than a kilometre of high voltage underground cabling is left to be installed. The remaining construction and turbine installation activities will be completed in parallel with turbine commissioning over the next few months, with full operation expected to commence in November this year.
Mr Yeates was also very pleased with the efforts on site to ensure the project had delivered a very high level of protection to the local ecology.
“We’ve had various teams of specialists on site who have worked very hard to make sure the procedures for protection of cultural heritage, flora and fauna have been carefully integrated into our work, as well as processes to ensure any unexploded ordinance on the site was carefully managed. At times this work introduced new challenges, but we are proud of the outcomes and consider we have probably set some sort of benchmark for future projects” he said.
The wind farm will deliver in the order of 530,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy, which is predicted to meet the annual needs of approximately 75,000 north Queensland homes over at least a 20-year period.
Power producer Ratch owns a number of wind farms around Australia including the Windy Hill wind farm near Ravenshoe not far from the Mount Emerald site, and has an interest in a number of renewable energy development opportunities.
The Mount Emerald Wind Farm will boost Queensland’s renewable energy credentials significantly. Of the 3,500MW of wind generation capacity currently in Australia, Queensland currently only supplies around 12MW from wind farms in Ravenshoe and Thursday Island.