Environment and Health
Design and Planning
Environment and Health
What health risks do the turbines present?
Internationally, there have been a handful of allegations from wind farm opponents claiming ‘wind turbine syndrome’, with wide-ranging symptoms including sleep disturbance, headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, irritability, problems with concentration and memory, and even baldness and weight gain. The National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia’s leading expert body promoting the development and maintenance of public and individual health standards) reviewed published scientific literature in 2010 and found no published scientific evidence suggesting wind farms cause any pathological effects (that is, harm to the body or hearing).
The review looked into health concerns associated with infrasound (sound below the hearing threshold of most people). The review found no evidence to link wind turbine effects (including electromagnetic interference, shadow flicker and blade glint) with any adverse health effects. However, the review did say that noise from wind turbines has been linked with health and well-being effects such as annoyance, nuisance and dissatisfaction; as well as interference with activities like speech, sleep and learning. Also, it suggests that, “if people are worried about their health they may become anxious, causing stress-related illness”, meaning people may exhibit genuine symptoms that could have arisen because of a wind turbine, even though the turbine is not the direct health risk.
The National Health and Medical Research Council committed to continued review of new evidence, and in 2013 released a systematic review of human health impacts from wind turbines. This monumental study reviewed 2850 international references. Their conclusion:
“There is no consistent evidence that noise from wind turbines―whether estimated in models or using distance as a proxy―is associated with self-reported human health effects. Isolated associations may be due to confounding, bias or chance”
In contrast, existing coal-fired generators have significant effects on human health, as they emit:
• Oxides of nitrogen and sulphur, and ntiric and suphuric acid — irritants that can cause respiratory illness, asthma, and even death
• Particulates, which when inhaled can cause breathlessness and increase cardio-respiratory problems
• Vapourised mercury, which accumulates in the environment and can appear in significant concentrations in fish at the top of the food chain, including tuna, shark, swordfish and mackerel, and in shellfish that accumulate mercury from the organisms they filter. Mercury is a particular problem for pregnant women and infants, as exposure to even low levels of mercury can cause developmental problems
• Other toxins, such as boron and fluorides, and even low-level radioactivity.
Interesting media on “Wind Turbine Syndrome”:
- ABC Radio National Breakfast: Health effects of wind farms
- Wind Turbine Syndrome: Classic Communicated Disease
- Wind Turbine Syndrome: Mass hysteria in the 21st Century?
- Wind turbine syndrome: farm hosts tell very different story
- The web of vested interests behind the anti-wind farm lobby
- Embark’s Wind Myths and Facts
- NHMRC: Wind Farms and Human Health
- Professor David Shearman’s report: An energy policy for Australia: Doctors for the Environment Australia Appendix 1: Coal and gas – health effects (2006)
- The Clean Energy Council’s Report on Environmental Noise
What about the noise from the turbines?
Wind turbines are audible and you can hold a normal conversation under a wind turbine operating at maximum speed, without raising your voice. Wind farms make three main sounds:
• the ‘swoosh’ generated by the blade tip traveling through the air
• low frequency sound from gears and other mechanical movement
• small pressure pulses when the blades interact with wind flow around the tower.
Sound is defined by its frequency (the pitch, in Hz), and pressure (the ‘loudness’, measured in dB). Decibels are a logarithmic scale which means that a doubling of the perceived noise is equivalent to an increase of 10 dBA. This table shows a few different noise sources with associated noise levels:
|Noise level (dB(A))|
|Jet aircraft at 250 m||140|
|Pneumatic drill at 7 m||95|
|Truck at 50 km/h at 100 m; or
Fremantle Port ‘assigned level’, all hours
|Conversation or busy general office||60|
|Car at 65 km/h at 100 m||55|
|Busy road at 5 km||35-45|
|Wind turbine at 350 m||35-45|
|Rural night-time background||20-40|
The Fremantle Community Wind Farm is set to be accommodated within the operational Fremantle Port. For comparison purposes it is worthwhile to note that the Fremantle Port Authority has set a 126 dB(A) sound power level as the criterion for a noisy ship (“sailing” past the wind turbines). The Fremantle Port is an industrial site and its “Assigned level (dB)” is 65 dB at all hours, i.e. even at night time (Regulation 8 refers, see reference below).
A Wind Turbine Sound Calculator (courtesy Danish Wind Industry Association), allows one to calculate the dB rating of turbines at various distances. For example, the 600 kW Rottnest Island wind turbine is located around 350 m away from the closest residence on Islander Road.
Wind farms in Australia are designed to meet strict noise regulations, introduced by state environmental protection agencies to protect the amenity of nearby residents. The regulations require that noise for proposed wind farms is modeled and meets specified ‘acceptable’ limits. This means that people living near wind farms might hear them at times, but what is heard will be within the regulated limits.
What is the impact on birds?
Compared to other human activities, wind farms have an extremely low impact on birds. Wind turbines are responsible for less than one hundredth of one percent of all human-caused bird deaths. Wind turbines do occasionally kill birds, but other man-made causes of death (such as pets, buildings, vehicles, powerlines and communication towers) kill in much greater numbers. Wind turbines need to be put in the context of other drastically worse man-made causes of bird death, which as a culture we find acceptable.
The Fremantle wind farm project went through a planning application process in 2003/4 when the project was first proposed. The planning application submitted by the original proponents referenced an independent Migratory Bird Study. This study can be made available to anyone who is interested, but is not available online due to commercial confidentiality.
The Fremantle Wind Farm team has contacted the author of the study to confirm that it can and should be updated with more recent data, and to accommodate any design changes to the project. An new independent study on the impact on birds will be commissioned during the project development phase, and will be submitted along with a new planning application.
Environment Canada recently conducted a bird mortality study. Canada is similar to Australia in size, density, and installed wind capacity so its results are telling. We’ve summarised their results of the top causes of bird deaths in the figure below, for the ~270 million human-caused annual bird deaths per year. Where do wind turbines sit? At less than one hundredth of one percent.
The US National Wind Coordinating Committee’s 2001 literature review of bird deaths resulting from collisions with vehicles and other man-made infrastructure reveals similar results:
● vehicles: 60 to 80 million (different studies in different areas found between 2.7 and 96.3 bird deaths per mile of road each year)
● buildings and windows: 98 to 980 million
● powerlines: up to 174 million
● communications towers: 4 to 50 million
● wind farms: 10,000-40,000 (an average of 2.19 bird deaths per wind turbine per year in the US).
While extensive data is not yet available for wind farms in Australia, early results from bird monitoring at Codrington Wind Farm show an estimated bird mortality rate of 1.2 birds per turbine each year. Compare this with other significant causes of bird deaths include house cats, pesticides, oil spills, electrocution and disease. (A 2007 study by the Government of South Australia shows one domestic cat kills more birds in a year than one wind turbine.)
When it comes to potential impacts on threatened bird species, wind farms have to go through a rigorous planning process to ensure any such risks are fully assessed before a project can go ahead. It’s important to note, the presence of a threatened bird species in the vicinity of a proposed wind farm doesn’t necessarily mean the wind farm will pose a direct threat. Assessing the risk to birds is complicated, and depends on:
• whether the bird species typically flies at rotor swept height — many birds rarely reach rotor swept height, which is approximately 60 m
• if the bird species would normally fly through the wind farm area
• how the wind turbines are spaced, and where they are in relation to habitat areas, such as waterways, breeding sites, foraging areas and flocking sites
• avoidance rates for the species
• the layout and design of the wind farm, and what avoidance, mitigation and management measures are in place.
- Embark’s Wind Myths and Facts
- National Wind Coordinating Committee’s Avian Collisions with Wind Turbines: A Summary of Existing Studies and Comparisons to Other Sources of Avian Collision Mortality in the United States (2001)
- Government of South Australia’s Cats and Wildlife – how you can protect both (2007)
- Environment Canada government study on leading causes of bird deaths
- Why Coal and Nuclear kill far more birds than wind
Are there any toxic chemicals used in wind turbine manufacture?
This depends on both the design of the wind turbine and how the wind turbine is manufactured, and the Fremantle Wind Farm team has carefully considered our manufacturer with these considerations in mind. Typically the materials in a wind turbine are:
Foundation: steel and concrete
Machine carrier: cast iron or steel
Nacelle housing: glass fibre reinforced resin or aluminium
Rotor blades (3 of): glass fibre reinforced epoxy resin or carbon fibre
Gearbox: steel, castings and oil (can be eliminated by design)
Generator: silicon steel and copper
Power electronics: various semiconductor materials.
Within a commitment to sustainability it is important to eliminate the need for hazardous materials in the entire resources and energy flow of the manufacturing process starting at the extraction through to the finished product (including transport); its operation and its reuse or recycling/upcycling at the end of its service life.
The wind turbines we propose for the Fremantle Community Wind Farm are manufactured by Enercon (the perceived wind energy technology leader from Germany), Some key sustainability criteria of their production and design:
No rare earth metals
There have been reports on significant environmental impacts of mining rare earth elements in particular with hazardous impacts on human health. Most rare earths are mined in countries without strict environmental regulations and thus have higher potential to damage flora and fauna, and contaminate groundwater. Hence, this is not a whole-of-system approach to use permanent magnets in wind turbine generators. Enercon wind turbines do not use rare earth metals. The magnetic fields in the Enercon direct drive generators are created using electromagnets, not rare-earth magnets (permanent magnets).
The key intention of renewable energies is to wean the world off fossil fuel use. Using wind turbines that need large quantities of mineral oil in gearboxes contradicts the purpose. By design, the Enercon direct drive ring generator eliminates the need for a gearbox. As far as we are aware, this is the reason why only Enercon wind turbines can be used in water catchment areas.
For further reading on manufacturing processes and up-cycling (rather than recycling) we recommend Cradle to Cradle, Remaking the Way We Make Things. William McDonough and Michael Braungart
What is Fremantle Community Wind Farm’s contribution to the environment and savings emissions?
There are several ways that this project will contribute to improving the environment and reducing emissions.
Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
The electricity generated from the wind farm will displace electricity that would otherwise be sourced from the grid. Grid electricity is comprised of electricity from a number of different generators, including coal, gas, diesel, wind, solar, and other sources. Each generator has its own emissions profile. An accepted methodology to determine the greenhouse gas emissions saved by displacing grid electricity with wind power is to multiply the energy generated by the total emissions of the entire Western Australian grid mix. For example, the current design consists of eight turbines which will produce roughly 20 GWh per year (the 12 turbine option would, of course, produce 50% more power) The emissions of the grid which the wind farm would be connected to (the South West Interconnected System) in July 2012 was 0.82 kg CO2-e per kWh (source)
20,000,000 x 0.82 = 16,400,000 kg CO2-e saved per year.
The figures above are based on the wind farm design which received planning approval in 2004. An exact calculation of greenhouse gas emissions saved will be completed once the number of turbines, size, type and projected energy modelling has been finalised.
Indirect environmental contribution
One of the key reasons for putting this wind farm in Fremantle is the indirect contribution it can make through means such as environmental awareness and leading by example. This project is a rare opportunity to put large-scale renewables in a metropolitan area, where many people can learn and observe for themselves. People will be able to walk up to the base of the towers and touch, feel, and listen. It is often said that every kWh of renewable energy generated leads to many more kWh’s of savings through awareness-raising as people become inspired to take action on renewable energy and energy efficiency in other areas.
The project will serve as a monument to sustainability in Fremantle, and may catalyse or inspire other project and initiatives both locally and elsewhere. Importantly, the project will serve as a demonstration of the financial feasbility and bankability of a project of this size in Australia. This project can serve as a reference point which other project developers can use to build the business case for wind farms in other jurisdictions.
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Is there community support for this project?
Short answer – yes.
There has been an enthusiastic response to the project from the community so far. Our observations are that people see the immense potential for a community-owned renewable energy project in this location, and despite some initial reservations (very understandable given the amount of misinformation existing out there) the project is overwhelming seen as a positive for the Fremantle community.
The diversity of our supporters has been very encouraging. From passionate sustainability-minded locals, to parents concerned about their children’s future, to those who could take or leave wind farms but who see the great investment opportunity in a local project, to the Fremantle City Council, the Maritime Union, Fremantle community groups, people young and old and everyone in between.
How does a community ownership model work? (What is a social enterprise?)
A community ownership model means that local community members form the majority of shareholders. This has many benefits, not least that profits remain in the community.
A social enterprise is a business that uses market-based methods to generate not just financial gain, but also social and environmental outcomes. One possible model for the Fremantle Wind Farm is to cap shareholder return to a certain amount and have any surplus reinvested in projects which generate further benefits consistent with the principles and mission of the wind farm. For example, we could deliver energy efficiency programs to low-income households to help them save money or renewable energy education across the harbour at the Maritime Museum or a cultural/art project which reconnects modern Fremantle to its history with the wind and water. This model results in a generative system that is constantly building on the financial, social and environmental capital of the community.
Hepburn Wind is a great example of an Australian community-owned wind farm.
What are the benefits for the community?
The project has the potential to deliver a host of significant social, cultural, financial and environmental benefits:
• a large percentage of financial returns will remain within the community
• reinforcement of Fremantle’s identity as a progressive, forward-thinking community with a proud heritage in the wind and water
• emissions reductions
• social and environmental capital from the community investment program
• intellectual property and valuable learnings in an emerging field, freely available to others
• new employment and skill development opportunities for local staff members and local service providers
• ‘up-skilling’ of volunteers
How is the community being involved in the development of the project?
The Fremantle Wind Farm team are committed to working with the community through all phases of the project and maintaining open and honest communication. We have commenced community presentations and Q&A sessions; hold monthly ‘Windy Beers’ where anyone can come down for a casual chat, and are working our way through different stakeholders groups to ascertain views on key issues and feedback on elements of the project proposal. We’re trying to do as much engagement as time permits!!
Collaboration with the community will occur for the development of the business model and detailed design of the project, for example to look at preferred heights and number of turbines. Moreover, we believe that this project cannot be successful without an alliance with the community.
How can I get involved in the project?
The best way to get involved now is to demonstrate your support for the project to key decision makers including Minister for Transport, the Premier and the Fremantle Port Authority Board. Please see our “How to Get Involved” page for a guide to communicating your support, and stay tuned for activism opportunities (or better yet, create your own!).
Where have community wind farms been built before?
The Lynetten Wind Farm in Copenhagen, Denmark is the inspiration on which our Fremantle Community Wind Farm is based. Neighbouring 40 MW Middelgrunden Offshore Wind Farm is owned 50:50 between the local community and the Copenhagen Utility (equivalent to our Electricity Generation Corporation, trading as Verve Energy). Like our Fremantle Wind Farm, the Lynetten Wind Farm is located in an industrial port on the “front lawn” of a capital city.
What is the Fremantle Port Authority’s view on the project?
It is difficult for us to comment on the FPA’s view, since they have resisted open communication on the topic of the wind farm. We suspect they are wary of community opposition to the project and so see it as too risky for something they don’t feel they ‘must’ do.
What is the Government’s view on the project?
We have spoken to many politicians from all spectrums of the political field. We have never heard a local, State or Federal politician in opposition to the project; however, it appears none who could make it happen currently have sufficient incentive (yet) to push it through, and allow allocation of 8 to 12 circles of State land vested in the Ports to be leased by the wind farm.
We encourage people to contact their local member or relevant officials directly, so that they can understand your priorities, and the community’s view of the project.
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Design and Planning
Who developed the project?
The original project idea goes back to 1997 when German-born utilities engineer Raoul Abrutat approached the Fremantle Port Authority (the initial presentation can be downloaded here). The source of inspiration is the Lynetten Wind Farm in Copenhagen, Denmark.
To address the need for a commercial partner in securing land access to the port area around Rous Head Harbour, Pacific Hydro (who built WA’s Ord River Hydro Power Project) was invited in 1999 and became a Consortium partner.
What wind turbines are going to be used?
The initial 8 to 9 wind turbine design comprised 950 kW wind turbines that are now obsolete. The hub height was 55 m with a rotor diameter of 55 m (height-to-diameter ratio is 1:1). The physical dimensions were selected in consultation with the Fremantle Port Authority to blend-in nicely with the existing port cranes of the same height when elevated.
Now our preferred manufacturer is the German wind technology leader Enercon, and the model is the E-48 with 800 kW power output (48 m designates the rotor diameter). There are significant benefits of the Enercon design compared to conventional wind turbines. Here some features:
• Direct drive ring generator, eliminating the need for a gearbox. Variable speed of the rotor/generator is 16-32 revolutions per minute (rpm).
• Gearboxes on wind turbines experience significant mechanical loads and hence can be the cause of turbine failure and high replacement costs as operational experience from off-shore wind farms in Europe shows.
• No fast moving parts, hence the source for mechanical noise is eliminated (no gear grinding at around 1500 rpm).
• Highest efficient rotor blade design (i.e. wide and deep rotor blade profile down to the round nacelle). By design these are also quiet rotor blades. It is the aerodynamic designer’s goal to create blades that are quiet, because quiet blades are more efficient (less energy lost due to noise).
• Shadow Shut-Off, the shutdown system for limiting periodic shadow casting. Periodic shadow casting (or shadow flickering) is caused by movement of the rotor blades, which chop the sunlight and create a flickering effect whilst the rotor is in motion. The occurrence of this effect depends on the current local weather conditions, the wind direction, the altitude of the sun, and the wind turbine operating hours. The goal of shadow shut-off is to reliably prevent or reduce shadow flickering in relevant locations where this type of immission could be annoying (e.g. living rooms, bedrooms, schools, patios, etc.). To prevent or reduce this type of immission, ENERCON has developed a shadow shut-off system for its wind turbines that enables targeted shutdown of wind turbines, taking into account the meteorological conditions. Shadow shut-off is a program that is integrated into the wind turbine’s control system.
• Beneficial grid management capabilities that support the grid (Western Power will appreciate that).
• Storm control. Rather than being switched of during storms (wind speed greater 25 m/s) the turbine will operate at reduced outputs up to 35 m/s wind speed. This improves the economics of the Fremantle Wind Farm as more clean kWh will be generated. Also, storm control reduces the aerodynamic and mechanical wind loads on the turbine (compared to a parked rotor that is not spinning).
• Service. Local and experienced service team available. This is important to keep operation and maintenance costs at a minimum.
New farm design
There is now newly reclaimed land available around Rous Head Harbour with the North Mole being extended. The new farm layout can easily accommodate up to 12 x 800 kW wind turbines along the mole, raising the total possible capacity of the Fremantle Community Wind Farm to 9.6 MW.
Other nearby Enercon wind turbines
The closest Enercon wind turbine operates on Rottnest Island (E-40, 500 kW) only some 20 km across the Rottnest Channel from North Mole. Other Enercon wind turbines operate in WA (all by the state-owned generator, Verve Energy) namely:
• Mt Barker Community Wind Farm (E-53, 850 kW) by SkyFarming,
• Albany/Grasmere Wind Farms (E-66, 1.8 MW),
• Esperance Wind Farm (E-44, 600 kW) and
• Denham Wind Farm (E-30, 230 kW)
Why not offshore?
Off-shore wind farms are a costly exercise aimed at very large utility-scale projects (100-1000 MW) using very powerful wind turbines (each 5 MW and beyond) and are typically around double the costs of land-based (on-shore) wind farms for the electricity generated. The major unknown component costs are the foundations, and the installation and ongoing maintenance costs. Also, local Australian operational experience is very limited for offshore wind farms.
Given that the Fremantle Community Wind Farm is marginally economical in its current on-shire design, it appears that moving the wind turbines off-shore will be uneconomical and cannot justify the extra costs for the extra kWh generation that the smoother wind over water will provide. Land access for the off-shore design remains an issue (seabed); as does ship movement.
Last but not least, without significant Government commitment to meet off-shore capacity targets and network infrastructure contribution that goes hand-in-hand with Federal Government off-shore feed-in tariff legislation (such as by the German Government) we certainly do not wish the FCWF to be the guinea pig for such a small wind farm.
What type of planning permits will be required?
Fremantle Community Wind Farm has a long history dating back to 1997. From the viewpoint of community acceptance of the proposed Fremantle Community Wind Farm, it is very important to note that the project had previously (2002/2003) secured all necessary approvals, which unfortunately now have lapsed because the proponents couldn’t agree on commercial terms with the Fremantle Port Authority to buy the electricity generated from the wind farm. The approvals which have lapsed:
1. Planning Approval by the City of Fremantle,
2. Planning Approval by the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC), both considering recommendations by the
3. WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and its Department of Environment and Conservation.
What is the wind like at the Fremantle Port?
Fremantle is known for its prevailing winds, namely the “Fremantle Doctor” which is a strong southerly sea breeze. The wind resource at the exposed harbour area is good and makes the Fremantle Community Wind Farm a viable project.
Technically, the wind resource at the port (Fremantle Ports wind sensors atop Admin Building) looks like this:
|Mean wind speed [m/s]||7.75 m/s|
|Mean power density [W/m²]||473 W/m²|
How much electricity will this wind farm generate?
This is an excerpt from an independent test report of the Enercon E-48 wind turbine showing the estimated Annual Energy Production (AEP) for different wind speeds at hub height:
At the North Mole, the mean wind speed at 55 m hub height is around 7.5 m/s. Thus, the wind farm could generate:
• 8-wind turbine farm design: 20 GWh per year (20,000,000 kWh per year, enough for 3300 average households)
• 12-wind turbine farm design: 30 GWh per year (30,000,000 kWh per year, enough for 5000 average households).
What studies and assessments were undertaken during the project’s development phase?
As part of the planning application process these studies and actions were completed:
1. Potential impacts to migratory birds (Biota)
2. Preliminary wind farm assessment (Garrad Hassan)
3. Assessment of the wind resource for Fremantle Harbour (Garrad Hasan)
4. Energy analysis (Garrad Hassan)
5. Wind resource and energy production assessment of Fremantle Wind Farm (Pacific Hydro)
6. Preliminary noise assessment (Garrad Hassan)
7. Background sound monitoring (at 2 locations at the Fremantle Port)
8. Geotechnical drilling and survey (at the North Mole)
9. Visualisations (artist’s impression) and animations of the wind farm at various locations surrounding the port (Energy Visions).
What will be the working life of the wind farm?
The life of the wind turbines is greater than 20 years.
Wind turbines are a very well established technology which have been operating around the world for decades. There are many wind turbines around the world which have exceeded their 20 year scheduled life and continue to operate. There are also many turbines that have been refurbished at the end of their scheduled life and put back into service for another 20 years.
At the end of the Fremantle Wind Farm’s scheduled life, the management of the Fremantle Community Wind Farm will need to make a decision on whether the turbines should be refurbished and recommissioned, continue to operate as-is, or be decommissioned. This depends not only on the power output and condition of the turbines, but also the contractual arrangements and commercial environment for the project including land lease terms, electricity market economics, and many other aspects.
What happens in extreme wind conditions?
Wind turbines are built to withstand storm events. If the wind speed exceeds the rated capacity of the turbine, then each turbine automatically turns its blades to minimise the aerodynamic lift generated by the wind (the turning force). This is known as ‘feathering’ the blades.
What happens when the wind isn’t blowing?
The wind farm is connected to the local grid, the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), which means that the electricity generated when the wind is blowing feeds into the general electricity distribution system where it contributes along with other generators to energize local loads. When the wind is not blowing, other generators on the SWIS supply the power for local loads.
How can my company provide equipment/services to the project?
Our intention is to utilise local expertise in building the Fremantle Community Wind Farm and in particular products and services from businesses and corporates that are willing to share the success of the Fremantle Community Wind Farm as part of the remuneration.
We need assistance with:
• Geotechnical investigation, engineering and foundation design.
• Substation engineering and network design.
• Construction of the wind farm.
• Independent assessment of the wind energy resource modelling.
• Environmental approvals.
• Legal advice and assistance.
• Accounting advice and assistance.
• Electrical and civil detailed design engineering.
Preference will be given to local businesses who wish to be a contribution to the success of this project in accordance with the intent of a social enterprise.
Such commitment could be demonstrated by:
1. Creating a demand for renewable energy, (e.g. your business sources 100% GreenPower from renewable energy projects located in Western Australia. This will indirectly assist this and other projects in finding an off-taker for its renewable electricity generated)
2. Becoming a shareholder in this project.
3. Accepting deferred payments once the project is up and running.
4. Offering concessional prices and fees for products and services.
5. Having a track record in ecologically sustainable business practices.
6. Following other ethical business practices.
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Is it commercial viable?
The team’s financial models show that the project is commercially viable, subject to the cost of land (licence or lease), with no need for Fremantle Ports or the State Government to underwrite the project.
The team has a detailed project budget, and this budget will continue to evolve as the project development process proceeds. However, further investment in grid connection studies, foundation design and energy generation modelling cannot proceed any further without a commercial agreement for land access at Fremantle Port.
Perhaps most importantly, utility-scale renewable energy projects such as the Fremantle Wind Farm provide an effective hedge against the rising price of conventionally-generated grid electricity from burning fossil fuels. One of the key objectives of the project is to demonstrate that renewable energy projects of this size in Australia can deliver a competitive infrastructure-level return on investment to the community shareholders.
What commercial agreements does the Fremantle Community Wind Farm need prior to being built?
The most important commercial agreement is the land lease or land licence agreement with Fremantle Ports to accommodate the wind turbines on port land.
The analogy is building a house. Without land you cannot build the house no matter what work you have done to date (house layout and design, Architect plans, finance approval from your bank).
With the land rights, all other commercial agreements will flow on:
- Planning Approval
- Network Access (connecting to the Western Power grid)
- Customers (Power Purchase Agreement to buy the electricity)
- Finance (by local individuals, businesses and corporates).
This graph shows the 6 pre-requisites to have a wind farm:
How much is it going to cost?
Indicative investment costs to build the Fremantle Community Wind Farm are:
- 8-wind turbine farm design: $16-18 million
- 12-wind turbine farm design: $24-26 million
How will the project be financed?
Fremantle Community Wind Farm will be financed with local investment. Bendigo Bank Fremantle Branch is already a sponsor of our project and is enrolled to take its commitment further. Bendigo Bank is well known for its community banking model and together we are exploring how this ownership model can be adapted to this project.
The City of Fremantle has a Low Carbon City Plan, and the City of Fremantle is ready and willing to invest in the Fremantle Community Wind Farm.
Our commitment is to be a truly local project with 100% local ownership (individuals, businesses and corporates). The outcome is that the people who are going to live with the project are also the people to enjoy all the benefits.
We will follow other great examples, like the Hepburn Wind Farm, which is Australia’s first community-owned wind farm.
How can I invest?
The Fremantle Community Wind Farm is a project that will truly be owned by the local community. Residents of Fremantle, and others, will be able to apply for shareholding in the project.
The business plan is being modelled on the success of Bendigo Bank’s approach to community banking. There will be at least two opportunities to invest in the project. Once we have secured land access, there will be an initial call for shareholders to fund the early stages of the project development process. After the project has been fully developed we anticipate that a prospectus will be issued, in full compliance with ASIC regulations, to raise the capital to build the project.
The Fremantle Wind Farm Cooperative is subject to the Cooperatives Act. It is proposed that two types of member share offers will be invited:
– Local priority applicant (minimum 500 shares)
– Non-local applicant (minimum 2,000 shares)
The initial price per share and the number of shares to be issued is currently under development, but the anticipated share price is $1 per share. In accordance with Section 278 of the WA Cooperatives Act, and rule 15 of the Fremantle Wind Farm Cooperative Rules, the maximum shareholding of any individual members is 20%.
When the project is ready to offer shares for purchase, a Membership and Share Offer document will be issued to the public. This is subject to approval from the Registrar of Cooperatives, ASIC requirements, and all relevant laws regarding capital raising.
Will I be able to buy the power generated by the Fremantle Community Wind Farm?
We wish we could offer this. This topic is unfortunately very political. Here we’ll explain the concept:
The right to choose your electricity retailer down at the household level is called “Full Retail Contestability”. We don’t have this in Western Australia (Queensland does) and it appears not to be proposed by the State Government or any of the political parties.
In other words, by default all household are Synergy customers (on the grid called the South West Interconnected System (SWIS)). However, commercial customers with a threshold electricity consumption of at least 50 MWh per year (50,000 kWh per year, e.g. a corner store) can choose their electricity supplier.
One possibility of the Fremantle Community Wind Farm is to become WA’s first 100% renewable electricity retailer who sells a portion of its electricity generated to its community shareholders, e.g. to its corporate shareholders: the City of Fremantle. We would need to apply for a retailer electricity licence.
What were your assumptions for the revenue counter on the front page?
Here are the assumptions and sources used for our revenue counter on the homepage. Note that for all our assumptions we tried to use conservative values: the actual revenue generated would likely be higher.
- Start date assumed was 1 Jan 2012. The FPA actually put the original project (a commercial deal with Pacific Hydro) on hold in late 2004. The modern day incarnation of our (community-owned) project rose from those ashes, proposed in mid 2010.
- Revenue from power purchase agreement is estimated at $110/MWh. [source: the FPA commissioned Wind Power Scoping Study, pg 108]
- Energy generated: 20,000 MWh per year, based on the conservative 8 turbine layout [source: FCWF business model. Slightly higher than the 17,000 MWh/year estimated in the FPA commissioned Wind Power Scoping Study, pg 108]