Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the common questions people have been asking:
- Is wind power a commercially viable technology?
TasWind would need to be commercially viable in order for it to obtain investors and finance.
The main source of revenue for wind farms in Australia is the sale of electricity and Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). In order for TasWind to be viable the sum of the electricity sold in the National Electricity Market and the sale of RECs would need to cover the costs of capital and operating costs over the life of the wind farm. Most large wind farms in Australia are developed on the basis that the electricity and RECs output is contracted at a fixed price for a period of time. This gives both the investors and the finance companies the certainty required to invest in the project.
RECs are produced as a result of the Federal Governments Large-scale Renewable Energy Target, which aims for 20 per cent of Australia’s energy to be sourced from renewable energy by 2020. This was originally a policy of the Liberal Government under the leadership of John Howard and is currently supported by both major political parties. This offers a more certain policy context in which economic decisions can be made with greater certainty.
- What happens at the end of the wind farm life?
When a wind farm stops operating (either due to it being at the end of its useful life or it not remaining commercially viable) the site is required to be rehabilitated. Site rehabilitation is a condition of the planning approvals and is enforceable by law. Towers, blades, generators and related electrical equipment are almost always required to be removed from site as a condition of the approvals.
Rehabilitation of land above ground level will be managed in consultation with land owners and will form part of any agreement reached with individual landowners.
- What effect do wind farms have on property values?
For most Australians the land or house they own is their major asset, so the potential for a wind farm to negatively impact on property values is a core concern for many ‘neighbours’ to wind farm projects.
Over the past decade, a variety of opposing views have been expressed. For every empirical study providing evidence that wind farm projects do not impact on property values there appear to be a handful of anecdotal reports to the contrary.
Debate on the relationship between wind farms and property values will no doubt continue.
In an environment where there are declining rural land values in many areas of Australia the role of proposed or operating wind farms on those values is difficult to determine from one-off cases.
Hydro Tasmania has undertaken its own research into the relationship between wind farm and rural land values, based primarily on international studies and experience. In very simple terms this research has found:
Rural Land Values
The primary factor influencing the value of productive rural / agricultural land is the perception people have of future markets and the corresponding value of production over a 10-20 year period. Wind farms do not affect these markets or the productive potential of neighbouring rural land.
House / Lifestyle Property Values
A large study of more than 7500 house transactions undertaken by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2009 found no long-term post-construction decrease in property values for houses that had ‘scenic value’ as a major element of the property’s value.
While this may be true in the majority of cases there may well be localised situations where the visibility of wind farms very close to a ‘lifestyle’ house does impact on sale prices. This impact may be increased if owners believe that the value of their house has fallen and are hence willing to accept a lower price.
- What are the health issues associated with wind farms?
Hydro Tasmania puts people’s health and safety first.
Hydro Tasmania is continuing to research the latest information on health issues as they relate to wind farms and we are committed to making all of that information available to the community as clear and credible information becomes available.
We encourage everyone to have a say on these issues and we look forward to working through issues with the community.
- Do wind farms reduce carbon emissions?
Yes. Electricity generation in Australia is responsible for more than one-third of our greenhouse gas emissions. Eighty per cent of Australia’s electricity currently comes from coal. Currently wind energy generates enough power for around 1 million households or roughly 1 in 8 households in Australia (Source: Clean Energy Council).
Emission savings from wind farms are largely dependent on what fossil fuel stations are replaced by wind farm output. To keep prices as low as possible, the most expensive energy is replaced. For this reason, wind energy pro¬duced in southern states currently replaces predominantly black coal energy produced in NSW (Source: Pitt & Sherry 2012).
The flow of electricity between eastern states of Australia is facilitated by the National Electricity Market. A single 2 megawatt (MW) wind turbine will power approximately 1000 homes and save about 5000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year across the National Electricity Market (Source: Sustainability Victoria 2012, Sinclair Knight Merz 2010)
- Are wind farms in Australia viable without a carbon price?
Yes. Revenue for a wind farm in Australia is derived from the sale of electricity and Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).
The carbon pricing scheme in Australia affects the electricity component of the revenue. Depending on market conditionsit is possible that a reduction in electricity price would cause an increase in RECs price, and therefore not affect the viability of wind farms in Australia.
- Will the TasWind survey or poll be designed in such a way that the TasWind can manipulate the result?
For TasWind to continue and potentially be built it NEEDS community support. Many large projects across Australia have failed on the basis of not having community support. Hydro Tasmania wants to genuinely understand community concerns and issues so that these can be properly addressed in the ongoing development of the project concept. The measurement of community support will be a reflection of how well we have achieved this. We need to have a clear understanding of the level of community support that TasWind has so that we can make a decision as to whether to invest more money in the project or focus our wind development efforts elsewhere.
Manipulation of the results would not serve any advantage to Hydro Tasmania.
- Why can’t you show us now what the wind farm will look like?
Even if TasWind proceeds to a full feasibility process, there is a long road ahead before a decision about whether the wind farm concept becomes reality.
“At the end of the feasibility phase we will have developed a draft Development Application for the wind farm. To prepare this, we will have had to asses all of the environmental and social issues, confirmed a turbine layout, entered into agreements with landowners and finalised the details of the community benefits,” said Mr Burke.
“This is a major piece of work and it’s not until that point that there will be real clarity about what the wind farm will actually be.”
- What is the closest distance to the coast you can legally erect wind towers?
There is no blanket setback or buffer requirement from the coast / high or low water mark, rather there are a series of provisions that provide for permitted setbacks, and these can be varied in particular circumstances.
Under the King Island Planning Scheme there are four provisions that could restrict development near the coast:
- Special Area Provisions (Overlay) – Coastal Protection Area
- Specific Development Provisions – Developments on or adjacent to water bodies
- Zone specific setback standards from all boundaries – Public Open Space Zone
- The State Coastal Policy
There are also other constraints to consider such as dwellings, visual amenity, noise, landscape, and environmental issues.
The layout design process ensures that legal requirements are complied with as well as taking into account a wide range of other factors.
- What do you assume is the prevailing wind direction?
Hydro Tasmania does not currently have wind monitoring at the planned 80 metres hub height but we have data from Huxley Hill at 30 metres which suggests the prevailing wind direction will be WSW.
A number of 80m high meteorological masts may be built around the island to confirm the characteristics of the wind resource. One is planned for Huxley Hill and consideration is being given for the need for another two or three around the island.
- Are there any conditions under which a land owner could be forced to have wind towers on their property when they do not agree to have them?
No. We want to develop a relationship with land owners that will be positive and constructive for both us and the land owner and that will last for the whole life of the wind farm, which could be well over 20 years.
- Are you considering any innovative wind generation technologies?
Our view at this point is that the proven technology based on 3 megawatt, three-blade wind turbines is the most appropriate technology for TasWind. We will obviously review this situation as the project proceeds. The TasWind project will use class-leading technology both in terms of wind turbine generators and high-voltage, direct current infrastructure. This will be necessary to ensure the project is genuinely sustainable and commercially viable.
- What restrictions does a land owner have on use of their land?
In terms of agricultural pursuits very little is affected. Normal cropping and grazing activities can be conducted right up to the turbines. In some circumstances land owners have been asked to modify practises to address very specific issues. For example, the land owner at Musselroe Wind Farm was asked to stop grazing sheep because of the threat to Wedge-tailed Eagles being attracted to the after-birth. Today cattle are grazed on that property for the mutual benefit of the land owner and wind farm. These sorts of issues are rare and we do not foresee any for TasWind. If such an issue emerges, we will negotiate with land owners in accordance with our values of being open and transparent. Nothing will be forced onto land owners.
There may be some restrictions on siting of new buildings. Building size may be restricted within a certain distance of a wind turbine because of its potential influence on the wind characteristics. Similarly there may be restrictions on the location of any new dwelling due to noise levels from wind turbines.
During construction there will be a significant amount of activity but it is recognised that the normal operations of an agricultural business must continue as much as possible. This is achieved through extensive liaison with the landowners and a very disciplined approach to managing the works on site.
During the operational life of a wind farm, the wind farm owner would require access for the purposes of operation and maintenance. This typically involves access for light vehicles during daylight hours. There are some maintenance activities that require large cranes and some restrictions on other activities for safety reasons. However the planning for these activities is detailed and will involve liaison with the landowner to ensure that disruption and inconvenience will be minimised.
Rehabilitation of the site at the end of the wind farm’s life is also planned to minimise disruption to land owners. Management of this part of the wind farm lifecycle aims to remove infrastructure and rehabilitate the area to ensure there are no residual restrictions on land use.
- Australian wind farms only produce energy at 25-35% of capacity. Why is this?
This number is called a capacity factor. This is the ratio of actual energy produced compared to how much energy might be produced running at full capacity, 100% of the time. it is calculated by adding the power output for each hour over a year and dividing that by the total possible power output over a year. The wind farm can not run a full capacity all of the time because of a range of factors. The biggest issue is the consistency of the wind speed.
A typical wind turbine does not operate at wind speeds below 4 metres per second because there is not enough energy in the wind to spin the blades. They will also stop working at wind speeds of 25 metres per second because the turbines might be damaged. At 4 metres per second the wind turbines will generate a small amount of power. This ramps up to producing full power at around 13 metres per second.
So if the wind blew at speeds between 13 metres per second and 25 metres per second ( a light breeze to a gale strength) all of the time the capacity factor would be 100% ( ignoring maintenance and other issues that would prevent the wind farm from operating). The reality is that the wind does not blow in this way and therefore wind farms can not generate at maximum production.
The average capacity factor for Australian wind farms is around 34% which is at the higher end of worldwide averages.
While we haven’t done 80 metre hub height wind monitoring yet we expect King Island to have a very good wind resource and we expect a relatively high capacity factor, above the average for Australian wind farms and potentially above 40%.
- Who will pay for TasWind?
If TasWind is feasible, Hydro Tasmania would seek private equity through financial partners to construct and own the wind farm.
Hydro Tasmania will also investigate Federal Government funding opportunities to support strategic aspects of this significant project possibly through the Clean Energy Fund.
If implemented, TasWind would be a commercial venture and will need to compete directly with other renewable energy projects in Australia.
- How and why have you chosen the locations for the turbines?
King Island is ideal for hosting the turbines, due to its exposure to the famous 'Roaring Forties', a world class wind resource. However, we don't have definite ideas yet about the siting of individual turbines or what the wind farm would look like as a whole.
Many factors including environmental and technical constraints could exclude some parcels of land from being suitable. The final location of wind turbines on individual properties would not be decided for some time.
- Will the cables be underground?
Where possible we would use underground cables as opposed to overhead cables to minimise the risk of physical collision and enhance appearance. Between individual turbines cables will be buried.
There may be exceptions where overhead lines may be more appropriate. However in these cases the use of overhead cables would be carefully considered and discussed with the community. Any overhead lines would be of a similar scale to existing lines on King Island.
- What are EMFs can they cause me damage?
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are generated by electrical equipment, ranging from power lines to domestic appliances and electrical installations. There are two types of EMFs:
- Electric fields, which are generated due to having electrical potential (electrical voltage), and
- Magnetic fields, which are generated due to having a flow of charge (electrical current).
The EMF levels in restricted areas such as substations and converter station will be designed according world-best practices and any impact of these fields at the boundary will be below the general public exposure limits.
The main Direct Current (DC) cables will employ a technology that uses two identical cables carrying current in opposite directions. This creates two opposing magnetic fields which effectively cancel each other out, meaning the proposed TasWind connection will produce fields that are much smaller and will therefore pose no health risks at any proximity to the cable.
In-depth studies of EMF exposure and effects will be carried out during the project’s development.
Hydro Tasmania will ensure that the proposed TasWind project is designed according to the best standards and guidelines ensuring safety.
- What’s in it for me if I’m not a landowner?
Hydro Tasmania proposes to establish a scheme to provide financial benefits to the broader community in addition to landowners should the project go ahead. We are open to ideas from the community as to how this could be delivered to provide longer term sustainable benefits. We have heard cheaper power mentioned by a number of people and this could be considered in the mix of ideas.
- Can I get cheaper power?
Whilst we don’t set power prices on King Island, if desired by the community, the concept of lower cost electricity could be investigated as a benefit from the project.
- What are the potential health impacts?
Hydro Tasmania’ first and most important business value is that we put people’s health and safety first. Should the TasWind Project proceed we will not compromise this value.
We continue to research the latest information on health issues as they relate to wind farms and we are committed to making all of that information available to the community.
We encourage everyone to have a say on these issues and we look forward to working through the issues with the community, in open forums, through the Community representation or any other appropriate mechanism.
We are currently developing a Health Statement for the project. This will document for the community how we will put people’s health and safety first. This will developed from your feedback, latest research and in collaboration with the TasWind Community Consultative Committee.
- What will the wind farm look like? Will it be a visual eyesore?
Hydro Tasmania understands the importance of landscape and visual amenity for the King Island community and its visitors. At this early stage there is no current preferred layout or location. Over the coming months we will distribute some example photo montage of other wind farms to assist in describing potential visual impacts. We will also detail the process for considering both the visual amenity and landscape values.
Should the project proceed beyond the initial community consultation phase we will commence more detailed layout design, landscape and visual amenity studies. The layout is likely to change many times before it is finalised.
We will use video and photo montage technology to communicate with the community about what the wind farm would look like. We will then use feedback from the community to alter the design to come up with a solution which considers community issues and ideas.
- Will you upgrade the port?
If it proceeds the TasWind project will require hundreds of shipping loads for materials and components. This is likely to warrant an upgrade or reconfiguration of the port. We do not currently understand the exact extent of how the port would need to be changed but we will be working with the key stakeholders over the coming month to determine this.
We will report back to the community early next year with the findings of this work and what it potentially means for the community.
- What is the height of the towers (+blades)?
We think the towers will be around 80-90m high and the blades about 110-125m in diameter. It's very early days however and we are not at the stage of selecting specific turbines.
- How far do they have to be positioned away from homes?
This depends on a number of factors, including noise, landscaping, visual amenity and the layout. Many of these factors are determined by regulations but we are keen to hear what the community thinks.
- Do you prefer a tight clustering or would you prefer them spread out across the valid areas of the island?
Usually the design process is a balance between environmental, technical, visual, landscaping and other considerations. We don't have a specific layout at the moment but are very keen to hear what King Islanders think would be better. What do you think?
- What is the range of distances (and average) that you would expect between towers?
Turbines would generally be no less than 400 metres apart. They are usually further apart to maximise energy output and consider fit with landscape.
- Do you have a spec sheet on the turbines?
Not at this time. We haven't selected a preferred turbine as yet and by the time of construction technology is likely to have advanced.
- Are these turbines used anywhere else in Australia?
Again as we haven't selected a turbine as yet so it’s hard to say. The turbines at Musselroe Bay would be of similar scale.
If you have a question which is not answered here, please contact us via the feedback form.