King Island – community views sought on innovative wind farm proposal

28 November 2012

Hydro Tasmania is investigating the potential of building a large wind farm on King Island.

Initial consultation with the island’s community would begin immediately to seek their feedback over the next three months as part of the pre-feasibility stage. The support of King Islanders is crucial for the project to proceed.

Hydro Tasmania Chair David Crean said that for the past 15 months, Hydro Tasmania had been assessing the wind farm concept on the island to utilise the world-class resource of the prevailing Roaring 40s.

Dr Crean said the work done to date indicated it was broadly feasible from a technical, economic and environmental perspective. The Tasmanian Government had expressed its strong support for the project proceeding to the consultation stage.

"It is most important that we seek the views of the King Island community," he said. "Their support is crucial for the project to go to the full feasibility stage."

The proposal, known as TasWind, involves construction of a 600 megawatt wind farm consisting of around 200 turbines. If approved the renewable energy produced would be transmitted into the National Electricity Market via a high-voltage direct current underwater cable across Bass Strait, with a landing point in Victoria.

Job creation

Estimated to cost around $2 billion, the project could see the creation of up to 500 jobs during a two-year construction phase and 10-20 jobs when the wind farm was operational. In addition there would be an inevitable flow through in other jobs to the island's economy during the life of the project.

The wind farm - if built - would produce approximately 2400 gigawatt hours of renewable energy for the national market, which is enough to supply around 240 000 homes. This would represent more than 5 per cent of Australia's Renewable Energy Target (RET) and reduce the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere by around 1.9 million tonnes a year.

Dr Crean said that if the project proved feasible it would be a commercial venture, with Hydro Tasmania seeking private equity through joint venture partners to construct the wind farm, as well as investigating Commonwealth strategic funding opportunities.

He said it was important to emphasise that TasWind was a concept and the next stage would involve extensive consultation with the King Island community through until the end of February 2013.

"While sitting in the path of the world-class wind resource that is the Roaring 40s makes King Island the perfect location for such a project, it is important to emphasise that it is very early days,” Dr Crean said.

“The project will only proceed to full feasibility if the majority of King Islanders are in favour. That is why we are embarking on a consultation process that aims to set a high standard nationally for engaging with local communities on major renewable energy projects.

"Such a project would also require extensive and detailed social, economic and environmental investigations, as well as regulatory approval at both state and federal level, before it became a reality.

"Obviously a project of this size would have considerable benefits for the island in terms of jobs, infrastructure development and likely upgrades to existing facilities such as the port, while injecting considerable additional value into the local economy.

"However, we also recognise there will be a level of concern in some quarters and many questions about the project. We want to ensure King Islanders have all the information they need and every opportunity to discuss the issues and concerns they may have.

"Their views and input would provide vital feedback to help our business make the right decision with and for the people of King Island."

Consultation

Over the next three months Hydro Tasmania will undertake consultation on the island and organise regular forums for the community to have their say. Project staff will move to the island during the pre-feasibility phase and establish an office in Currie.

Information will be provided through regular community newsletters, a project-specific website and a range of fact sheets, as well as through local communication channels such as the King Island Courier. A letter has been sent to all homes and businesses on the island outlining the details of the project, and advising how people can find out more information and be involved in the initial consultation process.

Dr Crean said Hydro Tasmania had briefed the King Island Council and key business stakeholders on the project and looked forward to their valuable input into the pre-feasibility process.

He said Hydro Tasmania would consider all the feedback and expected to be in a position to make a decision on whether to move to the full feasibility stage by April 2013.

If the project proceeded to full feasibility this would be completed by 2015 and be followed by a comprehensive approvals and design process. If this went to plan, construction would be expected to begin in 2017 with full operation expected to occur in 2019.
 

For media enquiries please contact Samantha Meyer on 03 6230 5746.

For more information about the proposal please visit www.taswind.com.au