Coopers Gap Wind Farm update

Latest update about the Coopers Gap wind farm project and the presentation from their June meeting in Bell.  Questions and answers relating to the project and its requirements.map

The presentation from the meeting is available here:  (pdf)

Meeting Presentation June 2016

 

The path of community infrastructure designation for the Coopers Gap Wind Farm (CGW), due to size of the project, will now go through the Office of the Coordinator-General. The project was considered by the Coordinator-General and on 7 June 2016 was declared a ‘coordinated project’. (Department of State Development – Coopers Gap Wind Farm)

Terms of Reference and EIS process:
The Coordinator-General has prepared draft terms of reference (TOR) for an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Coopers Gap Wind Farm. The draft TOR sets out the matters AGL must address when preparing the EIS.

Agency and public comments were open 10 June to 11 July 2016. Comments go to the Coordinator-General and evaluated prior to going on exhibition.   The Coordinator-General is in the Department of State Development.
The draft TOR for the EIS are on exhibition until 11 July. By 29 July the Coordinator-General will have determined the final TOR for the EIS. The draft EIS will be on exhibition in August and AGL will address submissions as they come through, in order to prepare a final EIS for the Department of State Development.

Q1. What does ‘coordinated project’ mean?
A1. The Office of the Coordinator-General has deemed that the project is of significant importance to Queensland. The Office of the Coordinator-General will work closely with all agencies, across environment, health, and noise issues and with the South Burnett Regional Council, Western Downs Regional Council, and community to ensure it moves through the process in a rigorous and timely way.

Q2. An extension of time is needed.
A2. The Office of the Coordinator-General has determined the timeframe.  The consultation is for developing the TOR, which means that they will determine the sorts of things that need to be assessed by AGL in the EIS, such as noise, environment, health, species impacts etc. As a community or individual, we can look at the TOR (available on the State Development website) and see what the government is going to ask AGL to cover.

Project Status Update
AGL set up the Powering Australian Renewables Fund, investing up to $3 billion to produce around 1,000 plus megawatts of large-scale renewable energy into Australia.
Coopers Gap Wind Farm – it is confirmed that the 275kV transmission line will connect at the junction of Niagara Road and Bunya Highway. AGL is now working on the next stage which is the connection application.
AGL is starting to prepare the tender documents for Coopers Gap Wind Farm. This is a big step for the project, however an exact date has not been set for when the tender documents will be released, we are aiming for late August.
In response to comments from some members of the community, we wanted to explain today the requirements AGL Energy has in relation to wind turbines on turbine host properties.  AGL Energy is responsible for the disposal of the turbines and any other wind farm related paraphernaelia at the end of the wind farm’s life. There is no liability on the turbine host to do this.
There are two keys parts which say that when the wind farm comes to the end of its life the wind turbines and generators must be removed. Path one is through the Queensland government. For any prospective development approval, the requirement will be that the turbines must be removed at the end of their life. If AGL does not do that and does not comply, the Queensland government would enforce this through fines and court cases to ensure compliance. That applies to all conditions. The other path is through agreements with the individuals, which also says that at the end of the wind farm life, AGL must remove the turbines.

Q3. What if AGL goes broke, they may not honour this?
A3. The turbine tower, generator and blades contain lots of copper and iron. The cost of removing a wind farm is cost neutral as the value of the assets covers the cost of removing it/

Q4. If a wind farm is sold to another supplier do the same conditions apply?
A4. Yes.
It is useful to note that windfarms installed 20 years ago are coming to end of their life, and they are being updated to the newest generation of wind farms and repowered for another 20 years. Sometimes the towers are replaced.

Q5. Aspects of the development pertains to the size of the turbine, the bigger turbines emit more noise, are they replaced with the same size turbine or a bigger one?
A5. Like for like, the same rules apply. If a different size turbine goes in it must go through an approval process.

Q6. What if AGL develops the project then sells to another company and when it comes to the end of life the company declares bankruptcy?
A6. The value of the tower and generators is equal to the cost to remove it.

Q7. It doesn’t help if the company doesn’t actually remove it, then they must go through litigation and court processes.
A7. The companies through the Powering Renewables Australia Fund are large companies with resources and are likely to remove them.

 Wind Farms and noise
Background noise monitoring was done seven years ago. The requirements of testing the background noise has changed. Some of the changes are about the rules on how the testing is carried out. AGL will carry out background noise tests again on 12 properties over the next few months in order to meet the guidelines.

Q8.  What is noise monitoring?
A8. AGL has commissioned a noise consultant. They will set up six logger sites with the microphone set up off the ground recording noise every 10 minutes for four weeks, then moved to another six sites. The same sites will be done as in 2010. The requirements have gone from class B to class A, where the microphone now needs to be 1.5m off the ground. After continuously logging the background sounds, consultants analyse the information and work out what the background noise is at day time and at night time. The tests are being conducted in winter and will also be compared with the summer testing done previously. We are just measuring the background noise. The guide requires testing done around the whole site and moved around every four weeks.

Q9. 75% of the wind comes from the north-east and south-west at certain times of year.

Q10. How do take into account the differences in wind direction throughout the year?
A10.  Façade noise testing. Environmental noise policy 2008, objective for inside noise is 30dB. The draft Queensland wind farm guidelines have noise requirements outside of a property at 35dB(A). Regarding concern about the noise reduction across a façade; there was a test done that AGL are aware of that wasn’t in accordance with standards.

Members of the community have requested that façade testing be carried out to back up formal research that has been done for decibel reduction of 7-15dB across a property.
AGL will carry out façade testing at residential properties across 5-7 houses, looking at different construction materials to get representative samples. Which properties are done is up to the community. If convenient for the community, AGL would like to do the testing in the week of 11-15 July.
AGL will engage a consultant to carry out façade testing, using the national standards. AGL suggests that there are a couple of community representatives at the testing, that as it isn’t a media event, and AGL will work with the community to identify the places.

Q11. Down in the valleys people get noise in their home more than those on higher ground.
A11. Any project approvals or prospective approvals will have a regular noise level at A weighted and C weighted at noise frequencies.

Q12. We have heard that infrasound is a problem, even when the company insulates houses people still have a problem with the noise. Living near the beach is not the same as living with turbine noise.
A12. There was a presentation given by an acoustician previously to explain the noise.

As a result of the 2014 – 2015 Senate Inquiry Into Wind Turbines, $3.3 million was committed to further research into low frequency noise and infrasound, which will go through the process from a medical and health point of view looking at what the research is showing around infrasound and frequency noise. AGL supports this research.

Q13. It would be interesting to see the research guidelines. Haven’t seen a peer review that say they turbines don’t emit infrasound. Can’t prove the infrasound noise is not there.
A13.  There has been 25 peer reviewed reports that found infrasound isn’t emitted that isn’t already in place.

Q14. It has been proven by an ENT specialist that there is infraound.
A14.  Professor Alec Salt carried out research on guinea pigs which found a possible mechanism behind some people’s sensitivity to infrasound. This research could be part of science’s long term process of learning more about physiological responses to low frequency sound. We aren’t saying that infrasound doesn’t exist, rather wind turbines do not create high levels of harmful infrasound as claimed and that infrasound is occurring all around us all the time, for example wave motion at the beach creates infrasound. Infrasound is naturally happening everywhere already, including being generated by our bodies.
Façade testing looks at the difference inside the home and outside the home and sees the difference across different types of houses. This testing will also provide AGL with information on the wind farm noise impacts inside and outside the homes.

Q15. The recommendation is 30dB, why is AGL 36dB?
Draft Wind Farm State Code Planning Guidelines link
A15.  The objective stated in the Environmental Noise Policy 2008 is 30dB inside residences.

Q16. The requirement for industrial areas is 28dB. Why does AGL have a different nosie objective?

A16.  If you have concerns about the noise level guidelines you need to put it to the Coordinator-General.
The rule maker is the Queensland Government. You can tell us your concerns in this area, but you need to take them to the government to address your concerns. They are open to it if there is community support for something changing or being included. They will consult with the community, especially if there is lots of interest on an issue.
AGL does not influence or take part in the TOR development. AGL develops and submits an EIS that complies with the TOR. You need to contact the government about the rules. Talk to HO about the process if you have issues to be addressed. It is an important stage right now and you have the opportunity to change things if demanded, and to address where you think there are gaps.

Q17. What does the map colours mean?
A17. Yellow is the landowners with whom AGL has agreements. Red and Grey are prospective turbines (not finalised). Residents area the black squares. Purple line is the council boundary. Maps not yet finalised.

Q18. Guidelines say turbines must be 1.5km from residences.
A18.  confirmed no turbines with 1.5 km of non-financial landowners.

Q19. I believe all residences should have 1.5km, including those who are hosting the turbines.
A19. There is provision for financial landholders to agree to have turbines within 1.5km if a signed agreement is in place.

Q20. There are two sets of rules if the 1.5km rule doesn’t apply to those hosting, what happens when the farm is sold? The draft wind farm guidelines says absolutely it must be 1.5km.
A20 The guidelines say that the code doesn’t apply if the landholder signs an agreement.

Q21. Why is it a concern to others, other than the financial landholder?
There were comments from the floor suggesting it is the landholder’s business if they have a turbine closer to their residence under an agreement, it shouldn’t concern anyone else.
There was an understanding from a member that the wind farm code stipulates that turbines must be 1.5km from a residence if financial or not, but that is not what the code says.
The codes says 1.5km, however the guidelines say that landholders can negotiate to have turbines where they choose, as long as they are 1.5km from anyone else.

Q22. If a neighbouring landholder was getting building approvals then it will be affected.
A22.  No opinion given on that. If someone is seeking a building approval on a neighbouring property, the approval would be up to the Local Council.

Q23. Need to understand that there are others who are also impacted.
A23. AGL acknowledges that some people do have issues with the turbines, whether it’s the look of them or their sound.
Anyone is welcome to come to AGL if they feel they are experiencing health impacts from the turbines. AGL asks their hosts if they feel comfortable in speaking with AGL if they feel they are experiencing health impacts because of wind turbines. The hosts indicate they would be comfortable coming to AGL if they did feel they had any issues, but said they hadn’t had health impacts at all. There have been no wind farm workers who believe they feel affected by wind turbines.

Q24. Some neighbours are the ones affected and seem to have lots of problems. What if the host gets 70%, neighbour gets 20%, downwind gets 10% of the hosting incentives?
Comment – don’t agree, if people say they are going to get sick they will.
Comment – the media shows that those not paid are the ones that get sick. Overseas examples show where female minks aborted, prairie chickens moved 8km away from turbines, and cows took two years to get used to sound of the turbines. There are upsides and downsides. There are noise problems and no one is going to investigate it properly.
There is another $3.3 million investment recently allocated by the National Health and Medical Research Committee to research into wind turbines and health impact claims. This came about as a result of the latest Senate Inquiry Into Wind Turbines. The research is to determine either way if there are issues. If the outcomes show there are genuine health impacts, then AGL will work with the relevant parties to address these.

Q25. How long have plans been going for?
A25. Five years in planning for Coopers Gap Wind Farm with AGL.
Comments from an aggravated observer, that when they bought their farm four years ago they were not informed that the wind farm was going ahead. The previous landholder or agent did not tell them about the proposal.
Comments: that it would have been hard for the owner/buyer to not be aware of the wind farm.

Q26. If a turbine is found to be in breach of conditions or there are impacts, what will happen?
A26. If the noise exceeds 35dBa at a non-financial landowner property, AGL needs to fix it. If it can’t be fixed and AGL allows the turbines to operate with the noise permit levels being exceeded, AGL will have breached the project approval conditions. If we do that, the government will instruct the turbine to be fixed, if not, then we will be fined. We are required to turn it off until the problem is fixed.

Q27. Will AGL automatically test all houses neighbouring the wind farm, even beyond the 1.5km threshold, testing the noise level when it is running to ensure they are not in breach of the noise threshold?
A27. Under approval conditions, AGL is required to test locations around the surrounding farms.

Planning permit sets required locations and AGL has gone above the requirements at our other wind farms. In Victoria 23 sites were tested, although we only needed to test six. If you are have concerns with wind farm sound, then we would be likely to do sound testing.

Q28. What implications are there for the project if AGL will go above 28dB within inside the home, or will it make the project unviable?
A28. AGL will operate under the requirements in the TOR.

Q29. What is the allowable limit for background noise?
A29. Will take the question on notice. Neil will check the allowable limit for turbines above background noise?

Community groups visit to AGL Victoria Wind Farms
Helena Orel, AGL Community Stakeholder Engagement Manager
There have been a lot of discussions around wind farms and sound. Previously AGL has taken people to visit AGL wind farms in Southern Australia, and it is timely to offer this to the community again for 1-4 August 2016. Invitees include CCC members, council representatives, and direct neighbours. The group will visit AGL’s Victorian wind farms at Macarthur and Oaklands Hill. Macarthur is Australia’s and the Southern Hemisphere’s largest wind farm with 140 wind turbines. The design layout is different to Coopers Gap. Oaklands Hill has a similar wind turbine layout and the area is similar in to the agricultural area of Coopers Gap. Oaklands Hill has 32 turbines.

Q30. What are the size of the towers? Are they the same as what is proposed for Coopers Gap?
A30. At Macarthur Wind Farm the turbine hub height is around 85m. With the new technology changes for turbines, turbines are becoming taller and the blades longer to collect more wind energy. So the Macarthur Wind Farm turbines are a slightly different height as to what is expected to be installed at Coopers Gap Wind Farm. The Coopers Gap turbines are likely to be taller than the Oaklands Hill ones.
AGL will pay for the trip. Macarthur Wind Farm is one hour drive north of Warrnambool and the Oaklands Hill Wind Farm is another hour north of Macarthur Wind Farm. Up to 30 people can participate, with currently room available to take a few more. A bus will go to either Toowoomba or Brisbane airport.
The trip will involve going close to the turbines, and inside a turbine base as well as listening to sound from the wind farms at different points around the wind farm, both inside and outside the wind farm area. We will arrange to meet community members, direct neighbours, hosts, and community members in towns nearby. The turbine hosts are keen to meet, as well as the technicians who work five days a week on wind farms to share experiences. There is a similar arrangement for the Oaklands Hill Wind Farm.
Helena will need feedback to make travel arrangements. The community requested that the Bell Community Centre be the place for meeting the bus to take people to the airport.

Q31. How many turbines are proposed for Coopers Gap?
A31.  About 100 turbines.  AGL is seeking approval for 115 sites, not turbines. Mainly because of redundancy, so if a site ends up as being inappropriate, we have others already approved for use.

Q32. With the towers situated on higher ground to the east, will the flicker be over the prescribed amount over summer and winter?
A32. Will take the question on notice and present findings at the next CCC.

Q33. Is there a problem with starting fires?
A33.  Include fire presentation also at the next meeting.

Q34. How will AGL contribute to the degradation of road condition with the increased traffic, particularly during construction?
A34.  From the Macarthur farm experience, ALG will have an agreement with council/s. A pre-construction audit will be taken with visual and recorded information about the condition of roads. There will naturally be some damage during construction, which is made good during the project and followed up with post construction assessments and made good through council. AGL’s traffic management plan specifies where equipment can be taken, roads must be approved and drivers must stick to the plans. This way councils and AGL will know what roads are susceptible.
Regarding traffic, if a kilometre doesn’t have to be driven in a vehicle then it is fundamentally safer. AGL aim to bus in the construction workers to reduce the amount of vehicles on the roads. We try to use materials for construction sourced locally, so we are not bringing large amounts of equipment and supplies in if we don’t have to. This helps protect the roads to avoid unnecessary traffic and damage.
The EIS manages the use of roads. The government will require that the road is brought to a standard to carry equipment. Local roads will be improved as a result of the project.

Q35. Where will the substation connection be located?
A35. The physical location of the connection will be 1km along Niagara road which won’t be seen from the Bunya Highway.
Action: AGL will have presentations on flicker and acoustician experts scheduled for the next meeting, and make available previous presentations at CCC on flicker and acoustics.
Next meeting 
1-3pm Thursday 25 August, Cooranga North Memorial Hall, Cooranga North.

 

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