With eight wind farms commissioned in 2019, adding 837MW of new generating capacity, for the first time in Australia wind energy overtook hydro power as the leading source of renewable energy. Over the course of the year, wind supplied 35.4 per cent of the country’s clean energy and 9.5 per cent of overall electricity – and this growth is not set to slow down anytime soon. Here, we take a look at the sector and some of the most exciting projects underway that will contribute to an expected 5,844MW boost in capacity.

The cumulative installed capacity of wind energy in Australia has been steadily growing, and has more than tripled since 2010.

This is in part to it being one of the lowest-cost sources of new electricity supply in Australia, and with the cost of utility-scale wind energy expected to continue to fall, new wind farms are anticipated to deliver electricity at around $50-65/MWh in 2020 and below $50/ MWh in 2030.

Another contributor to the rapid increase in installed capacity are technological advances in the sector, resulting in larger and more efficient wind turbines that are able to make use of intelligent technology.

Rotor diameters and hub heights have increased, enabling more energy to be captured per turbine. Furthermore, advancing technologies mean that fewer turbines are needed to capture the same amount of energy, and are giving wind farms increasingly sophisticated adaptive capability.

As of the end of 2019, there was 6,279.4MW of installed capacity in Australia, with another 30 wind farms under construction or financially committed to, totalling a combined capacity of 5.5GW.

Wind projects to get excited about

Silverton Wind Farm, NSW

AGL’s $450 million 200MW Silverton Wind Farm, located in north-western NSW, was the largest wind farm to be completed in 2019, and reached full production capacity in early 2020.

It is the seventh biggest wind farm in Australia, and is expected to generate approximately 780,000MWh of clean, renewable electricity each year, enough to power approximately 136,000 average Australian homes, and to reduce CO2 emissions by 655,000 tonnes annually –the equivalent of taking 192,000 cars off the road annually.

Construction began in May 2017 and was completed in 2019, with first generation in May 2018. The wind farm comprises 58 wind turbines each with 3.4MW 130m rotor wind turbines on 110m towers.

They were constructed and commissioned with maximum output at night-time, and commissioning of the wind farm for daytime generation is being progressed with AEMO and TransGrid.

Connection works for the project included a 25km transmission line from an existing 220kV substation in Broken Hill, operated by TransGrid, and a new 220KV wind farm substation.

MacIntyre Wind Farm, QLD

Acciona’s proposed $1.96 billion 1,026MW MacIntyre Wind Farm, located around 200km south-west of Brisbane, will be the largest onshore wind farm in Australia and one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.

Up to 180 turbines are proposed for construction, within 36,000 hectares of leased land predominantly used for sheep farming – which will be able to continue during the construction and operations phases of the wind farm.

Acciona has reached an agreement with CleanCo, a Queensland Government energy operator, for it to become the independent owner and operator of a 100MW wind farm within the MacIntyre complex, which will be the state’s first publicly-owned new renewable energy generation in 20 years.

Furthermore, CleanCo will acquire the annual production of 400MW from Acciona’s facilities for ten years through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).

The project is still under development, with Acciona planning to submit a development application seeking a development permit for a Material Change of Use (MCU) to allow construction and operation of the wind farm to the State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA) in Q3 2020.

Warradarge Wind Farm, WA

Commissioning of Bright Energy Investment’s 180MW Warradarge Wind Farm, near Eneabba in WA’s Mid West region, was set to commence in August, with full production expected in Q4 of 2020.

It will provide enough power to cover the average annual electricity needs of the equivalent of 148,500 homes.

Construction included 51×3.6MW turbines, which are amongst the largest in the state with a tip height of 152m, 67m-long blades and a hub height of 84m above the ground. 117km of underground 33kV electrical cabling was also laid as part of the project.

A 10km transmission line from the wind farm substation to the existing 330kV transmission line near Eneabba on the South West Interconnected System (SWIA) was constructed by Western Power and includes a new terminal station at Eneabba.

Once production commences, the wind farm will represent a 30 per cent increase in large-scale renewable energy connected to the SWIS.

Murra Warra Wind Farm II, VIC

The 434MW Murra Warra Wind Farm project is located in north-western Victoria, 25km north of Horsham. It is being constructed in two stages, with stage one – which consisted of 61 3.7MW turbines – completed and operational.

Stage two will see 38 5.5MW turbines (the largest in Australia to date) constructed, adding 209MW in capacity.

Once completed it will be one of the largest wind farms in Australia, generating enough energy to power 420,00 homes and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over 1.7 million tonnes every year.

In August 2020, the consortium comprising RES and Macquaries’s Green Investment Group announced Murra Warra Wind Farm II had sealed finance and a buyer, and construction can now begin.

The project is expected to take two years to complete, and will be constructed under contract with General Electric International and its subcontractor Zenviron. RES will provide construction and operational asset management services under a long-term agreement.

A long-term PPA for Murra Warra II has been arranged with Snowy Hydro through its Renewable Energy Procurement Program.

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