Neoen acknowledges the Gomeroi & Anaiwan people, Traditional Owners of the land on which Thunderbolt Energy Hub will harvest the energy of the wind. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.

ABOUT WIND FARMS

The construction timeframe depends on the project size and the number of workers deployed on site. For a 500MW power plant, a 24-month timeframe is expected.

Neoen’s projects use premium quality wind turbines and battery technology provided by leading manufacturers. This is selected through a competitive process for each project. All components come with long warranty periods, wind turbines are generally warrantied for 20 to 25 years.

A wind farm will typically operate for between 25 and 30 years.

Wind turbines are designed to convert wind into mechanical energy by rotating the turbine blades.

The mechanical energy is converted into electricity via a generator in the nacelle, which is sent directly to the grid.

The electricity generated by the turbine is proportional to the wind speed cubed. For example, a wind turbine in 8m/s wind will produce about 8 times as much electricity as a wind turbine in 4m/s wind.

This is why it’s important to place turbines in high and consistently windy areas to achieve the lowest cost power generation for consumers.

Wind turbines are generally 150 to 270m high (at the highest point). There’s approximately 500 to 1,000m between each turbine, but this varies between projects. Hub heights of turbines may vary between 90 to 160m.

Turbines continue to grow in size each year i.e. each new turbine model is larger than its predecessor. Often during permitting, higher hub and tip heights will be requested to accommodate the next generation of machines.

Economic: Larger turbines generate more and cheaper energy because they can access higher wind speeds at higher elevations. They also generate savings in civil and electrical costs (foundations, roads, cables, etc.).

Visual: Larger turbines are spaced further apart (up to 1000m) and have lower rotational speeds than smaller turbines.

Noise: Larger turbines don’t necessarily make more noise than smaller turbines, due to their slower speed and improvements in blade design.

All turbines in South Australia are subject to strict noise limits imposed by the Environmental Protection Authority. The noise impacts that are permitted are the same regardless of turbine sizing.

Environmental: Larger turbines require less concrete, roads and cables per unit of energy generated. This reduces carbon emissions, construction traffic, and vegetation clearance. Their blades are also above the flight paths of most birds, which greatly reduces the impact to avifauna.

We understand that wind turbines do alter the landscape. But we are committed to working with communities to ensure our wind farms have the least possible detrimental impact on visual amenity.

We encourage individuals and groups with questions about visual impact and solutions to engage with us early.

At the end of the wind farm’s life cycle (typically 25-30 years) the wind farm is decommissioned and we remove the wind turbines and all above ground structures and rehabilitate the site. This is a condition of the wind farm’s development approval from the State government and our agreement with the landowners.

During decommissioning most of the materials the wind farm is made from can be reclaimed or recycled.

ECONOMIC

Each project benefits the local community by creating employment. At Neoen’s Coleambally Solar Farm 300 people were employed locally during the construction phase and five are indirectly employed locally in full-time positions during operations. Neoen provides opportunities for local contractors to submit tenders and local jobseekers to seek employment by hosting a series of contractor sessions in the local area prior to any construction commencing. In addition, Neoen establishes a community fund for each solar farm to support community group projects.

The current cost of wholesale energy is $80-$100 per MWh on average. This comprises of existing coal, existing gas and renewable energy. The wholesale cost of large-scale renewable energy is considerably lower than this at approximately $40 per MWh.

The wholesale costs of the individual sources of generation in 2020 are:

  • Existing coal: approximately $30-$60 per megawatt hour
  • New large-scale renewables: approximately $40 per MWh
  • Gas generation: approximately $120 per megawatt hour; and
  • New coal: approximately $90+ per megawatt hour
Neoen pays for any upgrades to State or Local Government or landowner roads required for transporting wind turbine components to site. If we damage roads, we will pay for repairs.

Neoen pays for any electrical transmission upgrades necessary to connect and operate the project in the electricity grid. This includes construction and maintenance costs for the life of the project.

Neoen does not require government subsidies to finance its projects. We finance our projects through a combination of our own equity and long-term bank loans. However, we sometimes enter into agreements with governments or businesses to sell the power produced by our projects.

All Neoen projects meet strict State and Federal Government regulations and are assessed under these regulations. We work closely with governments to ensure we meet all legal requirements and exceed these requirements wherever possible.

At the end of a project life cycle, the turbines and solar panels are removed and the site is rehabilitated.

This is a commitment we make to the landholders and the State government, which is in the development approval and our contract with the host landholders.

After the assets are removed, most of the materials are reclaimed or recycled. This is because the steel, copper, lithium and other materials they are made of retain significant value.

Neoen fully appreciates that for most households, their home is their primary asset and that factors which may affect its value are of deep significance. Accordingly, the company takes concerns regarding property values very seriously.

However, Neoen is not aware of, and has not been presented with, any reliable, impartial research or evidence which establishes a correlation between real estate values and proximity to renewable infrastructure. Anecdotally, property values around several of our sites have increased.

The most recent and relevant study carried out in Australia was commissioned by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and published by planning consultancy Urbis in July 2016. This report comprised both an analysis of available sales data and a ‘literature review’ of Australian and international studies (including a 2009 report prepared for the NSW Valuer-General’s office). Its conclusions are most easily understood when divided into ‘agricultural’ and ‘lifestyle’ land.

Whilst property values are influenced by a range of factors and it is therefore difficult to determine if solar farms (or other similar infrastructure) can cause land values on neighbouring agriculture properties to increase or decrease, it is not expected that the Thunderbolt Energy Hub would affect the productivity of neighbouring agricultural properties.

Health & Culture

There are nearly 200,000 wind turbines installed worldwide — many of them in more densely populated areas close to houses.

Some 17 reviews of research literature from these leading health and research organisations concluded there is no published evidence linking wind turbines with adverse health effects:

  • World Health Organisation
  • Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Centre
  • UK Health Protection Agency
  • US National Research Council

Solar panels are placed on more than 25% of Australian homes, and have been on homes across the world for the past 15 years.

No health issues have been associated with solar panels, and the Thunderbolt Energy Hub will use the same type of technology.

Before it can operate, a wind farm has to demonstrate that noise levels at neighbouring residences will meet strict noise limits. These limits are designed to ensure that noise from a wind farm is not intrusive for the average person.

Solar farms create only very slight audible noise during operations (from the inverters).
People in nearby dwellings will not be able to hear it.

Monitoring dust levels during construction is a basic requirement of each project. We use dust suppression measures wherever possible.

Dust-generating activities are assessed during windy conditions and are stopped and rescheduled if adequate control of dust levels cannot be achieved.

All machinery is checked during site inspections and daily pre-start checks. This ensures all machinery has appropriate emission control devices, is in good working order, and is maintained correctly.

Neoen complies with all legislation, including laws regarding the protection of cultural heritage. A cultural heritage assessment forms part of initial studies as does consultation with local Indigenous groups to ensure cultural heritage is protected.

SAFETY & ENVIRONMENT

We engage specialist consultants for detailed flora and fauna surveys to determine the ecological attributes of the land.

On all of our projects, we aim to minimise the impact on flora and fauna by designing projects outside areas of high conservation significance, and adopting control measures during construction.

During the detailed design, wind turbines will be micro-sited to minimise the potential impact on fauna habitat. Turbine heights will be selected to minimise the overlap between rotor swept area and bird flight heights.

Other mitigation measures include:

  • preparing management plans
  • identifying ‘no-go zones’ within the project site
  • conducting pre-clearance surveys

We also consult with government departments of environment and biodiversity throughout development, construction and operation of projects, as well as local non-government organisations.

WIND

We built and operate the Hornsdale Wind Farm across numerous properties near Jamestown in South Australia.

Stock, including sheep and cattle, take a couple of days to get used to wind turbines, then are very comfortable with them. They rub up against turbines and use the shade from the towers during summer.

SOLAR

There is also some indications that in dry areas on solar sites, condensation and run-off from the solar panels may support a higher growth rate of feed along the panel rows.

We also own and operate the Coleambally, Griffith, and Parkes solar farms on multiple properties in NSW, as well as Numurkah in Victoria. We have conducted a successful sheep grazing trial at Parkes Solar Farm and sheep are now grazing on all of our operating solar farms.

While wind farms are sometimes said to threaten birds, an energy governance study completed in Singapore has shown that wind farms harm 17 times fewer birds per unit of electricity produced than fossil fuel generation.

Studies show that wind farms are probably responsible for impacting birds at rates that are:

  • 400 times fewer than cars
  • 500 times fewer than pesticides
  • 1200 times fewer than high-tension wires

Larger, modern turbines have blades that are well above the flight paths of the vast majority of birds.

The main exception is raptors, and we carry out detailed nest surveys and place generous buffers of 1 to 2km around any viable nest that is found. There is also evidence to suggest that raptors adjust to the presence of turbines and will avoid the blades.