MURRA Warra Wind Farm is set to become one of the largest in Australia once completed.
Work is well underway on the first stage of farm, which will comprise of 61 turbines. The second stage will consist of 55 turbines.
Construction started on the 429 megawatt farm in March. Once completed, the first stage of the farm will supply enough energy to power 220,000 homes.
This week overhead powerlines were strung by a helicopter.
Murra Warra Wind Farm owners site representative Adam Lenihan said helicopters were the easiest way to string overhead powerlines.
“It takes a lot less time to do it by helicopter than to do it manually. You would have to block roads for long periods of time,” he said.
Murra Warra Wind Farm spokeswoman Susan Findlay Tickner said the first blade was due to arrive this week, measuring more than 70 metres in length.
“These will be the tallest turbines in the southern hemisphere, measuring about 140 meters upright. Each embed has 75 tonnes of steel inside,” she said.
She said recent tours of the farm had proven popular among community members.
“The tours were completely booked out. In the future we’re hoping to hold an open day for people to come and see the progress,” she said.
The wind farm is expected create up to 300 construction jobs during the build and about 10 operational jobs during the first phase. The farm’s first turbine will be risen in early December using a 750 tonne crane.
Companies such as Telstra, Coca-Cola Amatil, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, the University of Melbourne and Monash University have already entered into long-term power purchase agreements.
Weighing up the benefits
THE construction of the Murra Warra Wind Farm has brought with it a wave of skilled workers to the Wimmera.
Wimmera Development Association executive director Ralph Kenyon said there would be a number of infrastructure projects and opportunities in the near future to help retain skilled workers.
“It depends on how quickly the main transmission lines can be upgraded between Ballarat to Horsham to Mildura – that is the main constraint for development of additional wind farms or solar farms,” he said.
“We will continue to lobby for that to happen so there are opportunities to retain those skilled workers who have come into the region for the Murra Warra farm.
“We look forward to working with a number of those projects to increase the capacity in this region to house workforces both in the short term and long term.”
Mr Kenyon said the influx of workers had put pressure on Horsham’s housing market.
“Sometimes these short-term impacts are negative from a local point of view, but by the same token these workers are spending money in the region,” he said.
“There are wins and losses, but overall the economic multipliers outweigh the negatives. Like when the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline was built – that had short term impacts.”
Harcourts Horsham principal Mark Clyne said the rental market was strong.
“I think we only have one rental property on our books at the moment so it’s very tight. We’re coming into our peak season and between all the agents in town, there is very little available, ” he said.
“There are still a number of wind farm contractors still yet to house and we’re unable to meet demand. There have been some high money offers for those higher end houses, but they are very hard to obtain.”
Horsham Rural City Council Mayor Mark Radford said the economic benefit of the wind farm had already started.
“If you talk to any of the accommodation providers in Horsham, already they have a huge amount of workers living in town. Then there are the local tradespeople who have been given opportunities to work out at the farm,” he said.
“There will also be some ongoing benefits for the landowners too. In the bigger picture, this forms part of improving the reliability of the electricity grid.
“It’s not the only option, but it reduces the reliance of coal power.”
Helicopter strings powerlines
OVERHEAD powerlines were strung by helicopter during the week at Murra Warra Wind Farm.
The lines will transfer the power generated from the wind turbines to the power sub-station. Downer site superintendent Josh Lind said it was common practice for helicopters to be used for the delicate operation.
“Most of the time cables are buried under ground, but this will be an overhead transmission. It’s a fairly standard practice in the power industry,” he said.
“If you run all the cables under ground they can become quite hot, so by having some run overhead prevents overheating.”
Work on the overhead line started on Monday. Road blocks were set up at the corner of Dimboola-Minyip Road and Dogwood Avenue while the operation was undertaken.
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