Wind farm proposal powers on

UPC Renewables Australia, represented by chief executive officer Anton Rohner (centre), has launched its $1.5 million wind monitoring program at Robbins Island, a long awaited project for owners John and Keith Hammond. Pictures: Ashleigh Force.

Project. The first of four wind monitoring towers has been erected on Robbins Island.

Towering over the land at 110 metres tall, the towers as well as three mobile wind monitoring devices will collect data over the next five or more years to allow wind farm developer UPC Renewables Australia to better understand wind patterns. This will inform the proposal for a wind farm project at Robbins Island and Jim’s Plain near West Montagu.

UPC Renewables is an international renewable energy developer operating in 10 countries. Pioneering wind and solar projects throughout the past two decades, the independently owned developer has generated more than $6 billion in clean energy investment in Australia with a renewable generation capacity of up to 3500 megawatts.

UPC Renewables Australia chief executive officer Anton Rohner predicted the local project could supply as many as half a million homes with energy.

“The wind farm we are proposing, we believe, is going to be one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, if not in Australia,” Mr Rohner said, of the turbines expected to stand as high as 220 metres.

“We are looking at a wind farm that [could provide] anywhere between 800 to 1000 megawatts.”

An idea formed almost two decades ago, reaching this point has been a journey in itself say Robbins Island custodians John and Keith Hammond.

“We were looking to diversify our operation and we thought well the same wind that blows across the wind farm at Woolnorth blows across this island,” John said.

“It was an idea that we believed in and we’ve stuck with it through all these years . . . maybe we’re too stubborn to give up on a good idea.”

Home to more than 2000 Robbins Island Wagyu cattle, the island covers an area of 100 square kilometres. The wind farm is not expected to affect this operation.

“We see this as another way to farm, another way to diversify and another way to help keep the property for the next generation . . . this is hugely significant for us.”

Once completed, Robbins Island could home between 150 and 300 towers.

The project is expected to cost up to $1.6 billion, including the initial monitoring cost of $1.5 million, and create as many as 250 jobs during construction and 50 operational jobs in the long term.

Minister for Energy Guy Barnett said the project would secure energy for the island state and reduce the cost of power.

“At the moment we are 90 per cent self sufficient here in Tasmania, and by 2022 we want to be 100 per cent or more,” he said. “This project will help us achieve that and more.”

If a second Bass Strait interconnector is installed, renewable energy development across the state will be unlocked, Mr Barnett said, whose government has supported this project with a $20 million investment.

“Any excess energy that is available will then be exported to the mainland to benefit Tasmanians; to keep downward pressure on prices, provide reliable power and deliver renewable energy.”

An application was expected to be launched with the state Environmental Protection Authority and federal Department of Environmental and Energy last month paving the way for preliminary designs, development proposals and environmental management plans to be submitted in the coming months.

Following this, construction at Jim’s Plain is expected to commence in 2020 before Robbins Island work begins the following year.

Circular Head Mayor Daryl Quilliam said the proposed project would provide a buzz within the community similar to that witnessed when Woolnorth Wind Farms’ Bluff Point operation was established in 2002.

“I am just thrilled that it is in Circular Head because it’s not only important to our state but to our nation as well,” he said.

This mobile wind monitoring device will be located throughout the island in the coming years as part of its data collection.

Robbins Island looks out towards Woolnorth Wind Farms’ Bluff Point operation.

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