Construction begins on Mortlake South wind farm, transmission lines to be buried

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Construction begins on Acciona’s 157.5MW Mortlake South wind farm, including Victoria’s first underground transmission line, in response to community concerns.

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Construction has begun on the 157.5MW, 35-turbine wind farm being developed south of Mortlake in Victoria by Spanish renewables group Acciona.

State minister for energy Lily D’Ambrosio visited the site on Friday to mark the milestone for the $275 million project, which will ultimately include between 5-7MWh of battery storage and will connect to the grid via the “state’s first” underground transmission line.

The plan to use underground cabling was revealed at a sod-turning event on Friday, with Acciona Energy Australia managing director Brett Wickham suggesting the decision was taken as a concession to local objections to the addition of more transmission lines in the area.

“It’s more expensive, but it’s the right thing to do for this project,” Wickham said in comments reported on ESD News.

“We examined various options, and of course are fully aware that existing aboveground transmission lines have caused some angst locally. As our approach is to invest in local areas for the long term and work cooperatively with communities, we felt this decision would be the most appropriate local solution for these specific circumstances,” he said.

Acciona’s Mortlake South development was mentioned in an April 2018 report in the Warrnambool Standard, about local opposition to the construction of large transmission lines throughout the Western District, to connect wind farms to the grid.

In the same report, Corangamite Shire councillor Helen Durrant described the practice as “environmental vandalism.”

“Those in the meeting voiced their concerns around the impact on the visual amenity of the area, the size and number of transmission lines, their location and the total lack of consultation with adjoining landholders,” she said.

“Also concerns were raised around safety, particularly pertinent given the recent fires.”

“Currently, there is no requirement for shared infrastructure, which means that the wind farm to be constructed at Mortlake south by Acciona in the next 18 months will construct its own power lines, as will any other wind farm that may be constructed in the future,” she said.

And she described the lack of consultation as showing a “total disregard and contempt for the community”.

As we reported here, Acciona’s Mortlake South Wind Farm was one of six winners of the Victorian government’s renewable energy auction in September of 2018 – a total of 928MW of capacity.

Acciona has previously declined to comment on the price it bid into that auction – the largest ever held in Australia – but said it was a smart piece of work by the government because it limited its financial exposure.

Plans to add battery storage were announced soon after the auction win, bringing Mortlake South in line with numerous other large-scale wind projects, including Victoria’s Bulgana renewables hub; Hornsdale, Lincoln Gap, Snowtown, and Wattle Point in South Australia; and the Kennedy energy hub in Queensland.

D’Ambrosio said the wind farm would create more than 90 new jobs during construction, 34 ongoing jobs and will generate enough clean energy to power 115,000 homes each year.

It will also engage the services of local turbine tower maker Keppel Prince, while the wind turbine supplier for the project, Nordex, is establishing a regional hub in Victoria to service the Australian and neighbouring Asia Pacific markets, employing 20 people.

“This wind farm will create local jobs, reduce greenhouse emissions and generate enough electricity to power more than 115,000 homes — boosting energy supply and bringing down prices,” said minister D’Ambrosio in comments on Friday.

“Our energy targets have been the catalyst for unprecedented renewable energy investment and jobs growth in regional Victoria.”

The route for the underground transmission line for the wind farm, Acciona said, was still being finalised based on environmental, cultural heritage and engineering considerations.

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