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By Mikayla Bridge, Assistant Editor, Utility Magazine

Construction has begun on the MacIntyre Wind Farm – the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere – which is set to have three substations. The project has already required some unique and innovative solutions to various logistical challenges, and is set to bring significant benefits to Australia’s renewable targets and the local economy once complete.

Earthworks and ground preparation began in June 2022 at the MacIntyre Wind Farm precinct, a $2 billion project that will include Queensland’s first publicly-owned and operated wind farm.

In September 2022, concrete began to pour for the turbines’ foundations. The 1,026MW project will occupy 36,000ha of leased land 200km south-west of Brisbane, will have a total of three substations, each with a power transformer, and is expected to be completed during 2024.

The precinct will consist of two wind farms: the 103MW Karara Wind Farm owned and operated by the Queensland Government’s low emissions generator CleanCo Queensland, consisting of 18 turbines, and the 923MW MacIntyre Wind Farm owned and operated by ACCIONA Energia, consisting of 162 turbines.

Laying the project’s foundation

Initial works are already well underway, with current construction focusing on site access. Director of Engineering and Construction at ACCIONA Energia, Dan Belton, said, “Initially, the work has focused on public road upgrades, developing access roads between turbines as well as earthworks to allow for the foundations to be poured. Another critical part of early work has been building the construction camp to house on site construction crews residing at the site.

“The camp is now functioning and is a fully fitted out site for teams living on site with individual sleeping quarters, mess hall and recreational centre.” There are also current works underway to connect the underground cables and turbines to the onsite substation.

“Various Medium Voltage (MV) reticulation circuits are installed across the site to transport energy from the turbines to the site substation. Each circuit is comprised of MV cables that are laid in trenches between each turbine, with the cables being run back to the site substations,” Mr Belton said.

“To connect cables into the wind turbines themselves, the MV cables are pulled through conduits embedded in the turbine foundations to enable termination of the cables inside the wind turbine.”

Overcoming logistics challenges

Expected to be ACCIONA Energia’s largest renewable energy facility, the MacIntyre Wind Farm is a new kind of step forward for renewable energy production in Australia. However, despite the success of current works and the expectations for the wind farm’s energy production, ACCIONA Energia must overcome a number of logistical challenges.

“Logistics is one of our biggest challenges. Turbine parts are being sourced from various overseas locations and are being delivered to storage facilities in Brisbane before being transported out to the site. “MacIntyre is the biggest wind farm in the southern hemisphere and the biggest wind farm ACCIONA Energia has ever built, but we have experienced project teams that will be able to navigate and resolve logistical hurdles,” Mr Belton said.

Mr Belton said the other major challenge will be managing the weather, as Australia’s east coast has experienced unprecedented levels of rainfall in recent years due to La Nina weather events. “The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast another La Nina for the summer of 2022/23. Managing transportation and construction safely is our highest priority and the weather forecast will play a major role in how construction progresses,” Mr Belton said.

Raising the bar for onshore wind

Despite these logistical challenges, Mr Belton is confident that the MacIntyre Wind Farm will fortify Australia’s decarbonisation and climate change targets. “MacIntyre is raising the bar for onshore wind in Australia. The site itself will generate enough power for the equivalent of 700,000 homes. This is important for Australia’s transition to renewable energy as we seek to decarbonise our energy sources,” Mr Belton said.

Beyond the project’s immediate benefits, MacIntyre is also prioritising community engagement. “ACCIONA Energia’s focus on building strong community ties with local businesses and community groups means the project’s benefits are felt well beyond the construction of the site itself,” Mr Belton said.

“Major projects like MacIntyre need to demonstrate community support in order for them to be supported by governments, and it’s critical that the community is an engaged and supportive participant in this process. If Australia is to become a renewable energy superpower, it’s vital that regional economies support these kinds of projects. Receiving this support requires a deep connection with the community which I think we’re leading the way on developing.”

Supporting the local economy

The project is expected to create hundreds of construction and operational jobs, as well as drive local businesses to supply the site’s construction. Mr Belton said as part of its development plans, at least $500 million in work is being procured from Queensland businesses.

“Recently, the site has begun pouring foundations using concrete, gravel and sand provided from local quarries and suppliers,” Mr Belton said. “The project is also committed to supporting local communities beyond paying rates to Councils (which support local services such as parks, sports centres, libraries and roads) by implementing a comprehensive community program.”

ACCIONA Energia has committed to donating $2 million over the first ten years of the project to support local community programs, events and initiatives. To decrease the environmental impact of construction, ACCIONA Energia’s wind farms are being built on properties used for sheep and cattle livestock farming. The wind farm’s operations will not interfere with the existing use of the land, instead adding to the property’s yield.

Wind farms are also generally significant payers of rates to local councils. Wind farms generate noteworthy rate payments that are used for road maintenance, waste removal and upkeep of social spaces such as parks, sports fields, gardens, halls and libraries.

Ultimately, despite the unique logistical challenges and sourcing difficulties, the MacIntyre Wind Farm is on track to accelerate Australia’s renewable energy production and improve local economies, without disturbing local land.

©2024 Utility Magazine. All rights reserved

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