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Lights, but no wind

Thursday, 1st March, 2018

The Silverton Wind Farm substation, as seen from air. The Wind Farm is owned by the Powering Australian Renewables Fund (PARF). The Silverton Wind Farm substation, as seen from air. The Wind Farm is owned by the Powering Australian Renewables Fund (PARF).

By Kara de Groot

If you’re driving at night and you see lights in the hills near Silverton don’t be alarmed, it’s probably not UFOs.

Workers at the Silverton Wind Farm Project are planning to begin night works from March to take advantage of windless times at night.

At this stage five wind turbines have been erected, and the ‘stubs’, the bottom power sections, of several more are in place.

AGL project manager Adam Mackett said they’ve achieved two milestones since the last community consultative committee meeting in January; getting generator registration from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), and energising the overhead lines and parts of the site.

“It’s been a lot of work to get AEMO comfortable and have all the right things in place to register as an energy generator, and we got that registration on Friday which is a big milestone,” Mr Mackett said.

“On Tuesday the Transgrid overhead powerlines and parts of the site were energised successfully which is really good,” he said.

“The next steps are to energise deeper into the wind farm, get the turbines commissioned and get them going.”

Mr Mackett said they hope to have the turbines already erected ready to go by late March, early April, with the project completed by the end of July.

He said there’s a couple of good spots to see the work going on at the moment.

“I think a very good vantage point is the Mundi Mundi lookout, and on the Silverton Road there’s several good vantage points,” Mr Mackett said.

“Travelling up the Daydream Mine Road there are also several good views, as long as people don’t follow the marked turnoff into the construction site.”

Contractors are now focusing on getting the turbines up and fully installed, and with that end in mind will start night works by the end of next month.

Health and safety checks are currently being made to make sure everything is in order, and Mr Mackett said it’s not unusual for work on windfarms to take place at night to take advantage of lulls in wind.

“People might see some lights on top of the hill from the cranes and from floodlights, and some works at night,” he said.

“Heading forward we’re going to be moving in the installation crew and equipment so there might be additional cranes on the hill too.

“We’ve got a lot of data so we’ve been able to find low wind times but it’s still a lot of work, we can’t lift in unsound conditions so rather than leaving the equipment sitting idle we’ll get some more work done.”

There are about 150 workers on site at this stage, with approximately 40 per cent local employment.

While the majority of the work will now focus on the turbines, there’s still some civil and electrical work taking place.

Mr Mackett said the companies involved would try and maintain the 40 per cent local hire rate, but the unique nature of the work means they are bringing in specialised talent as well.

“We’ve got another seven foundations to be poured and some roads to finish, as well as electrical works to finish,” Mr Mackett said.

“We’ll hover around the 150 employment mark for a while as the nature of the work force changes from construction and electrical to turbine works.

“The type of work we’re starting now has requirement in terms of specialist experience but there’s also a lot of support work that goes along with that.”

Mr Mackett said the local workforce had put the project in a strong position moving forward.

He said the fact the project is on track despite several long delays over the Christmas break showed the commitment of the workers.

“We’d like people to know of the work and commitment from Transgrid and the local workforce which has helped to set the project up quite well,” he said.

He also commented on a safety shutdown at the site early this month. On February 14 and 15, work at the site halted and workers were sent home. 

There were reports of rolled trucks, or of a fallen turbine blade. Mr Mackett said there were some incidents that were investigated.

“The safety shutdown was in relation to a couple of incidents,” Mr Mackett said.

“No one was hurt and the shutdown was to allow investigations into the matter, with work resuming on the site on the 16th.

“Everyone on the project takes safety very seriously and that was a time to review.”

The next community consultative committee meeting on the project will be held at the end of March.

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