Ballarat's renewable energy build-up could continue to provide jobs
10-01-2019 No Comment

Summary: Wind turbines are becoming a common sight as local projects hit the construction phase, and there’s more to come.....

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WestWind managing director Tobi Geiger, who is in charge of the proposed 228-turbine Golden Plains wind farm and helped develop the Moorabool and Lal Lal projects, which are now under construction, said it had been a busy year.


“One of my observations is that we’ve seen more activity in 2018 than is typical, because the Renewable Energy Target was coming to an end,” he said.


“There’s maybe 1000, 1500MW of wind to be delivered every year for the next five to 10 years, and Victoria will play a big role in that, so jobs in Victoria look favourable.”


Mr Geiger added it was important, when discussing renewable energy projects, to consider jobs in the transition.


“There’s potential for those workers (from coal-fired plants) in the construction and development phase in renewables,” he said.


“The difficulty comes from geographical location - it’s not in the Latrobe Valley, it’s in western Victoria - moving from Moe to the west is a good idea.


“I think we’ve all learned from the sudden closure of Hazelwood that it’s better to plan this a few years ahead to avoid the price hikes that are passed on to the consumer - I’m a consumer too, we all have a vested interest in a system that works well and uses market principles to an advantage.”


The Australian Electricity Market Operator’s proposal to improve transmission lines in the region is a plus for investors, as it shows that there will be more capacity and connections in the national network. WestWind has welcomed the announcement.


Components in a paddock near Yendon.


 Components in a paddock near Yendon.


“The main takeaway for us is that AEMO recognised the transmission infrastructure in the northwestern part of Victoria is not in line with requirements from numerous renewable energy projects, and they’re trying to address that,” Mr Geiger said.


“For proponents like us, we don’t like to invest money into projects without certainty they can be connected to national grid without a cost that makes them prohibitively expensive.”


All the works going on means companies are looking for a skilled workforce - a proposed TAFE campus focusing on maintenance of wind and solar facilities is currently under consideration at Federation University.


“We know all the turbine suppliers support it because they rely on a local workforce,” Mr Geiger said.


“It’s also ongoing training, because over time technology or regulation changes, and you need to have refresher courses.”


A business case for the TAFE project is expected to be released soon.


With the hundreds of wind turbines popping up, councils have already raised concerns about damage to rural roads.


The projects require hundreds of trucks to access the site, as well as the components themselves - these are delivered in the middle of the night to avoid disruptions, and are a major logistical operation, according to VicRoads’ heavy vehicle services director, Marc Paglia.


“Our experts carefully plan and assess the best route before these massive loads hit the road, to mitigate any potential risk of damage to our roads and bridges,” he said.


Rigorous planning is undertaken when determining the route, which may include temporary strengthening works.


The cost of these mitigation measures is covered by the developer or transport operator.


VicRoads rarely needs to reclaim the cost of road surface damage.


WestWind managing director Tobi Geiger said repairing roads was included in the planning permit approval process, and on-site quarries were preferred to reduce traffic.


“We’re quite happy with the way the regulation is, in terms of all of us having an obligation to return roads to the way they were,” he said.


A spokesperson for Lal Lal Wind Farms added that project is operating within Moorabool Shire Council permit conditions.


“Weekly checks are carried out on the roads in use by the project,” they said.


“Photos are taken and GPS coordinates are documented of road surfaces. This information is then compared with the pre-construction dilapidation assessment that has been carried out on local roads in use by the project. 


“Repairs have been undertaken where there has been some changes noted to the road surface.”


 


Source : Alex Ford, 9/1/2019, https://www.thecourier.com.au/story/5843392/potential-jobs-for-latrobe-valley-workers-as-wind-boom-continues/

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