Collgar Wind Farm (Collgar) consists of 111 wind turbines located 25km south east of Merredin in Western Australia. The aim of the project was to develop an environmentally and economically sound wind farm that provides renewable energy to be used locally, and exported to WA’s South West Interconnected System (SWIS).
The wind farm generates and delivers clean, renewable electricity into the SWIS each year, thereby making a major contribution to Western Australia’s greenhouse gas reductions. These reductions are equivalent to taking 150,000 cars off our roads each year, or planting up to nine million trees. Collgar Wind Farm produces enough electricity to power between 125,000 and 150,000 Western Australian homes with renewable energy.
The electricity generated from each turbine is transmitted via underground and above ground cabling to a central cable marshalling point at the onsite substation, which is located next to the 220kV power line that runs through the site area. The substation then connects directly into the grid network.
Detailed site investigations were undertaken, including ecological, heritage, visual and social, which formed the basis of the planning application for the project. Development approval was granted by Merredin Shire Council on 23 September 2008.
Early works on site commenced on 16 November 2009 and consisted of preparation for construction of the onsite substation and detailed geotechnical testing across the site.
Full construction works commenced in June 2010 and were completed by October 2011.
Collgar Wind Farm was identified by Windlab Systems Pty Ltd (Windlab) as a potential location for a wind farm in Western Australia in mid-2006.
An initial feasibility study was undertaken to determine the suitability to accommodate a wind farm. These feasibility assessments were based on the criteria outlined below:
- Landholders supportive of developing a wind farm on their property;
- Proximity of site to sensitive visual receptors and ecological or historical environments;
- Adequate wind resources (a wind monitoring tower was erected in April 2007, with two additional towers installed in 2008);
- Proximity to electricity network connection;
- Suitable land in terms of:
- Terrain and geology;
- Ecological conditions;
- Historic conditions;
- Land area;
- Compatible land uses;
- Planning controls; and
- Access to the site.
Following the determination of the site as a suitable location for a wind farm, in February 2008 Bayley Environmental Services were engaged to undertake technical assessments (ecological, visual and heritage) to assist in obtaining the relevant approvals.
Consultation with the community (including the Community Open Day – 30 August 2008), and relevant government authorities was undertaken prior to lodgement of the planning application with Merredin Shire Council.
The production and export of the first renewable energy from the wind farm into the South West Interconnected System (SWIS) took place on 14 May 2011, with all 111 wind turbines generating energy from October 2011.
Engagement with the local community is a critical objective of Collgar Wind Farm and is integral to the success of this project. Accordingly, a Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Plan was developed to ensure that open dialogue and information transfer could occur with local residents, stakeholders and the wider community during the development phase of the project.
The objectives of the community engagement process were:
- To keep the community and stakeholders informed about the project through the provision of factual project information;
- To identify and address community and stakeholder concerns and maintain transparency in the project design and implementation;
- To identify opportunities for local business involvement in the implementation of the project; and
- To provide feedback on how their input would influence the final project and decision.
Throughout the project’s construction phase and now in the operational phase, community consultation and engagement remain a critical element of the project. Collgar Wind Farm ensures immediate stakeholders and the wider Merredin community are kept up to date with project news through media coverage, website updates and information sessions.