Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Steps Involved in Developing a Wind Farm in Victoria

Wind farm development in Victoria requires careful planning and adherence to local regulations. Most of the wind farms take a considerable amount of time (5 years or more) from land negotiation to commissioning. The process of development starts with site identification, land negotiation, design, wind resource assessment, through wind farm planning approval in Victoria, financial close, then the construction phase and then its operation. The following write-up indicates the steps that are typically involved in developing a wind farm. Each step can be considered a hold point at which the decision to proceed to next step is made.

Step 1

Initial research (1st year)

The desktop study identifies the windy regions with potentially appropriate access, topography and environmental overlays, and feasible connection to the electricity grid.

Decision point: Find a landholder(s), commence negotiations.

Step 2

Getting in touch with the landholder, data gathering as well as constraint mapping (1st and 2nd year)

Short-term contracts are sought with the landlords to enable exclusive access to the properties for wind measurements, initial environmental studies, understanding the limitations and other such works. The agreements may include long-term lease options as well, which are to be activated when the project reaches the construction phase or step 7.

Decision point: Refine the design and continue with more in depth wind and environmental studies

Step 3

Refine the project area, complete environmental assessment (2nd and 3rd year)

The area where the wind farm is supposed to develop in Victoria is refined and a thorough landscape, environmental, noise and such other assessment studies are done. These inform the development of the draft management and building plans and, with the community input and landholder liaison, help identify the prospective locations for turbines, access tracks, electrical connection lines and other layout details of the project.

Decision point: Move on to the submission of the planning application and formal grid connection application

Step 4

The submission of development application development (3rd year)

A complete development application document is produced for consideration by the community and the suitable planning authorities in the statutory development assessment procedure. The assessment process gives everyone the chance to make formal submissions concerning the final application, prior to it being evaluated. This process of assessment can see the application approved with or without conditions or even refused.  In Victoria, planning regulations around wind farms may change over time depending on the State government attitude towards wind farms.

Decision point: The result of the application development process considered

Step 5

Wind turbine tenders and the final agreement for the grid connection (3rd and 4th year)

If the application is approved with conditions accepted, a contract is made with the electricity network for the future grid connection. Tenders are also sought for the turbines, balance of plant and construction.

Step 6

Financial Close: Making the investment decision (4th year)

Following the approvals as well as the tenders, the people planning to make the investment, then consider whether to make expenses for construction and operation of the wind farm. It generally involves investing 2- 2.5 million dollars per MW installed. The final decision of whether to proceed or wait depends upon several business and economic issues.

Decision point: To build or not to proceed.

Step 7

Wind Farm Construction (4th and 5th year)

If the decision is made is to move ahead with the construction, orders are to be placed for turbines and transformers at this stage. A construction company is also engaged in developing the wind farm in Victoria. Long-term agreements with the landholders are made and a Community Fund is created it is commenced.

Step 8

Generation (5th year)

The wind farm that has been developed in Victoria starts to generate electricity for the national grid.

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