5 October 2012 Dear Resident

PROPOSED COMMUNITY-OWNED WIND FARM

AT

WOODVILLE EAST

We are writing to provide information regarding the proposed siting of a small communityowned wind farm about 20 km north-east of Armidale, on a ridge between Donald and Herbert Park Roads (see map of location included in this letter). This letter is intended, as a minimum, to reach everyone who lives within 5 km of the proposed site, though to err on the side of certainty it is likely to reach some residents who live somewhat further away than that. Our purpose in providing this information is to explain the purpose of the community wind farm and its implications for the surrounding area and New England region more widely. The information presented covers a range of topics, most of which can also be found on our website (www.newenglandwind.coop). Much of the information is general in nature, as many project specific details have not yet been developed. We encourage you to call or email us about any matter you wish to follow up on. Before presenting this information, we would like to take the opportunity to respond to some specific concerns which have been raised. It is important to understand that this site is by no means a proven site for wind yet. During the next few years, on site wind monitoring will need to be carried out to determine how viable the site is. As part of determining the viability of the site, further discussions will be held with those most affected by this possible development. These activities, and other assessments, will influence the decision about whether or not to develop the communityowned wind farm. We also wish to reiterate our regret at the misleading information in one local media article, which implied local support for the project by some who had not been informed about it. The tone and some of the information in this media article was at odds with information provided by New England Wind. We are now creating a detailed database of surrounding residents to ensure our future communication is as complete as possible. Please assist us by checking with others you know in the area to confirm whether they receive this letter. We also request your assistance in providing an email contact. This will improve the ability for information to be shared.

Sincerely yours, New England Wind Consortium
WWW.NEWENGLANDWIND.COOP

is a partnered community enterprise by www.starfishenterprises.net PO Box 991 ARMIDALE NSW 2350 | ABN 26 150 552 962 Page 1 of 12

1

STRUCTURE

OF THIS

LETTER

The information provided in this letter primary is focussed on specific details about New England Wind and the Woodville East site.

This information is provided by New England Wind. We strongly encourage you to ask questions and satisfy yourself of the validity of any information provided. This information is presented below.

1.A GENERAL INFORMATION

ABOUT

WIND FARMS

For more general information about wind farms and wind power, the following points of reference are recommended.

NSW Government fact sheets on wind energy, community attitudes towards wind farms and the impact of wind farm developments on land values: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/climatechange/reprecinctresources.htm

NSW Government information on sustainability energy including wind power and a fact sheet comparing the costs of solar and wind power: http://www.trade.nsw.gov.au/energy/sustainable

A large range of information and articles are also available on the New England Wind website, Facebook page and document library on scribd: www.newenglandwind.coop/articles.php www.facebook.com/NewEnglandWind http://www.scribd.com/NewEnglandWind

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TABLE

OF

CONTENTS

1 Structure of this Letter........................................................................................................................................................ 2
1.AGeneral Information about Wind Farms.......................................................................................................................... 2

2 New England Wind and the Woodville East site............................................................................................. 3
2.A The New England Wind (NEW) Consortium.................................................................................................................. 3 2.B Project Rationale............................................................................................................................................................................ 3
2.B.i Why Wind and Why Not Solar?............................................................................................................................................................ 4

2.C The Woodville East Site.............................................................................................................................................................. 5
2.C.i Site description.............................................................................................................................................................................................. 5 2.C.ii Site Extent........................................................................................................................................................................................................ 7 2.C.iii Wind Farm Operational Lifetime..................................................................................................................................................... 7 2.C.iv Grid Connection....................................................................................................................................................................................... 7 2.C.v Aviation Safeguards ............................................................................................................................................................................... 7

2.D Community and the Wind Farm......................................................................................................................................... 8
2.D.i Financial Benefits......................................................................................................................................................................................... 8 2.D.ii Jobs & Business Services......................................................................................................................................................................... 8 2.D.iii Community Benefits Plan...................................................................................................................................................................... 9 2.D.iv Potential Impacts...................................................................................................................................................................................... 9

3 Next Steps............................................................................................................................................................................... 10
3.A Town Hall Forum.......................................................................................................................................................................... 12

2

NEW ENGLAND WIND

AND THE

WOODVILLE EAST

SITE

2.A THE NEW ENGLAND WIND (NEW) CONSORTIUM
The NEW Consortium is predominantly made up of local residents. The team brings the necessary expertise to develop a community-owned wind farm. Members of the group are working for the best interests of the New England community and are independent of any commercial or political interests. Refer to the enclosed copy of the recent FOCUS article for more details.

2.B

PROJECT RATIONALE

New England Wind has arisen from a vision for long-term energy self-sustainability for the New England. It is the next major community renewable energy initiative for this region, following on the success of the award-winning Farming the Sun solar energy project. The need for new and clean energy sources has been clearly articulated through numerous plans including: the Northern Inland Regional Development Plan, New England Sustainability Strategy, Climate Change Consensus Project, and various local government Community Strategic Plans. It is supported by local initiatives including Sustainable Living Armidale, Uralla Community Climate Change Forum, Sustainable Living Expo and the NSW Government Renewable Energy Precinct. Reducing coal use and addressing climate change are two drivers for the transition to
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renewable energy. Just as important are the environmental and public health benefits from clean energy that is produced in ways that don't undermine agriculture, water, biodiversity or air quality. The benefits and successes of community-owned, as opposed to commercial, wind farms are significant. They have proven to have considerable advantages and are widely used in many parts of Europe and the USA. In Germany and Denmark the majority of wind farms are community-owned (90% in Germany). Community ownership significantly increases the affordability of electricity as well as local economic benefits in terms of employment, business and investment returns. These benefits flow into the wider community as well, through community grants and energy education programs. NEW could be the first community-owned wind farm in NSW and only the third in Australia (with Hepburn Wind, Victoria being the first and Denmark Wind Farm, WA nearing the point of construction). Results of the Feasibility Study carried out in the early stages of the NEW project showed overwhelming support for a community-owned wind farm in the New England. For full details of the feasibility study and all documents relating to the study, see: www.newenglandwind.coop/project.php?pid=1 2.B.I WHY WIND
AND

WHY NOT SOLAR?

Wind is the most affordable, proven, reliable and widely used renewable energy in the world. The proposed community wind farm will produce around 35 gigawatts of electricity each year, which represents close to half the residential power use of the whole of New England Tablelands. Large solar installations are significantly more expensive than wind farms of equivalent output (where a good wind resource is available). A 2010 study (NSW Department of Trade) put the “levelised” cost of electricity at $110-$200/MWh for wind compared with $300-$550/MWh for solar PV. While the cost of solar is reducing rapidly, wind will still be the most affordable renewable energy option for the foreseeable future. Solar also requires considerably more space and does not easily co-exist with agriculture. Producing the same amount of electricity as NEW using a solar installation would require an area of around 150 acres of land. This land could not then be used for agriculture. In the case of wind turbines, animals will graze happily right up to the base of turbines.

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It is also worthwhile to note that there are groups within New England actively investigating opportunities for solar, typically at a much smaller scale, and we consider this complementary to the activities of New England Wind. Given the community-atlarge desire for energy self-sustainability, these and many more options will be valuable and necessary.

2.C THE WOODVILLE EAST SITE
To date, more than two years of work has been carried out on NEW, including a feasibility study and extensive analysis of 120 sites which were voluntarily offered by landholders to be considered as the site for a wind farm. Some of the key criteria for site selection are: • • • Likely high wind speed (noting that north-south ridges are most ideal in our region) Proximity to a point of connection to the electricity grid and capacity in the grid at that point to handle the electricity generated Sufficient space for a number of wind turbines which could meet between onethird and one-half of the New England’s residential electricity needs (reflecting the community desire to make a significant step towards energy self-sustainability) Sufficient distance from existing houses to minimise noise and other impacts Set back from sensitive areas such as threatened species or vegetation and heritage sites

• •

Of the 120 sites, the Woodville East site, as originally offered by Richard Maclean, was the most feasible candidate. The Woodville East site meets many criteria for a good wind farm of the size suitable for a community-owned enterprise. Adjoining landholders (Geoff and Lorne Siems; Tom and Anna Keys), each of who also own parts of the same ridge, have since expressed an interest in being involved as potential turbine hosts for this project as well. 2.C.I SITE
DESCRIPTION

The area of interest for the proposed wind farm is shown on the following page.

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2.C.II

SITE EXTENT

At this early stage, it is not possible to say how many wind turbines will be used on the site or exactly where they would be situated. On-site wind monitoring, which is yet to be completed, is required to determine both the most suitable turbine type and specific turbine locations on the ridge. However, as an indication, most large wind turbines currently installed in Australia use an 80m tower and have blades that are 45m long. Preliminary indications are that between 7 and 15 turbines of this size could fit on the site. 2.C.III WIND FARM OPERATIONAL LIFETIME

Wind turbines usually have a life of around 25 years which is equivalent to the life of a solar panel farm. After that time turbines would either be removed and any land disturbed would be rehabilitated, or the wind farm could be re-commissioned (subject to development consent) by replacing old turbines with new ones, or reusing the same towers if possible. The cost of decommissioning and rehabilitation would be included in the project budget and provisions set aside in trust, ensuring that these works will be carried out if required. 2.C.IV GRID CONNECTION To export power from the wind farm, it must be connected to the grid via power lines. A grid connection study is underway to look at the options for connection. The most likely point of connection would be to the Grafton Road substation. The preferred route would use existing power line corridors to minimise land use changes. The power lines required would use single poles (not large towers like the Transgrid link). The exact route from the wind farm to the substation will be influenced by many factors including landforms, vegetation and negotiations with landholders as well as by requirements of the distribution network operator, Essential Energy. 2.C.V AVIATION SAFEGUARDS

We have had discussions with the Aerodrome Manager at Armidale Dumaresq Council and with Airservices Australia about issues relating to air safety. A preliminary impact assessment has been completed by Airservices Australia with regard to an 80m wind monitoring tower. This shows that there would be no impacts on aviation safety from that structure. Before a wind monitoring tower is erected, CASA has to be notified of its location as well. As part of a Development Application for the wind farm itself, a full impact assessment would need to be carried out for aviation. With regard to aerial agriculture operations, pilots do a flyover and visual check for obstacles at proposed work sites before commencing and then plan their operations
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and risk management accordingly. Ground-spreading of fertiliser is the alternative in situations where aerial spreading is impractical. 2.D COMMUNITY
AND THE

WIND FARM

The wind farm will have a number of benefits for the New England community, as outlined below. 2.D.I FINANCIAL BENEFITS

Should the wind farm go ahead, there will be financial opportunities for all those in the New England region. Most directly, contractual agreements will be entered into with those landowners who are hosting the turbines or providing access for transmission, to provide financial compensation for the use of their land. Other agreements are likely to be negotiated with all landowners living within approximately 2km of a turbine. More widely, New England residents will have the opportunity to invest in the project. A key requirement of the project is that it will have competitive returns on investment, so investing in the wind farm should provide better returns than placing money in a term deposit. Note that at this time, the necessary structures are not in place to accept financial investments (however, donations and other assistance are warmly welcomed). Depending on the negotiations with power retailers, there may also be the opportunity to impact on electricity price for domestic customers in the New England region. This may mean delaying further price rises or even providing a discount. Hepburn Wind has negotiated such an arrangement with Red Energy and provides a 100% renewable energy electricity package for 10% less than ‘black’ (coal and gas) electricity prices. 2.D.II JOBS & BUSINESS SERVICES

The development of a wind farm near Armidale will provide a boost for local employment and business. A recent study by Sinclair Knight Merz1 showed that for every 50 megawatts of capacity, a wind farm generates: • Direct employment of up to 48 construction jobs, with each worker spending approximately $25,000 in the local area in shops, restaurants, hotels and other services – a total of up to $1.2 million Direct employment of around five staff – a total annual influx of $125,000 in personal expenditure locally Indirect employment during the construction phase of approximately 160 people locally, 504 state jobs and 795 nation-wide jobs

• •

1 http://www.skmconsulting.com/Knowledge-and-Insights/News/2012/Landmark-SKM-studylaunched-to-celebrate-Global-Wind-Day.aspx
Page 8 of 12

Up to $250,000 for farmers in land rental income and $80,000 on community projects each year.

Community ownership is associated with higher benefits in this regard than the commercial example given above. A 2004 study by the U.S. General Accounting Office found that local ownership of wind systems generates an average of 2.3 times more jobs and 3.1 times more local dollars compared to commercial ownership. At around 20 megawatts, the proposed New England Wind Farm will have a substantial effect on the local economy. 2.D.III COMMUNITY BENEFITS PLAN

New England Wind will also include a community development fund. The intent of the fund is to allocate a portion of the project returns to the community. The use of the funds will be determined with further input from community research and planning. Priorities which have already been flagged include providing benefits for the local area surrounding the wind farm site and addressing energy education and affordability issues for disadvantaged community members. New England Wind will also bring new skills and technology to the region. Energy education and affordability programs within schools and the community as a whole can be run, including tours of the wind farm, opportunities for work experience, and more. 2.D.IV POTENTIAL IMPACTS

(such as noise, visual amenity, road wear and tear, threatened species and wildlife, property prices, and shadow flicker) Wind farms can have negative impacts on nearby residents and /or the local environment. The development application and consent process is the formal and legal mechanism to ensure that these impacts are managed within acceptable limits. Depending on the size of the project, the formal review of the project will take place at either local council (Armidale Dumaresq Council), Regional Planning Commission or NSW Government level. As well as complying with these processes, it is New England Wind’s intention to go further to minimise any negative impacts of the wind farm. Our work to date has sought to do this through the feasibility study, voluntary landholder expression of interest process, public forums and communication. The selection of Woodville East has far less exposure for potential negative impacts than would be possible for a commercial developer, due to its relatively small size and distance from the electricity grid. Into the future we will continue to strive for this by: • Continuing to involve the broader community throughout the process, development, construction, operation and decommissioning;
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Ensuring that noise and shadow flicker are below all limits set out in the Draft National Wind Farm Development Guidelines, and the Draft NSW Wind Farm Guidelines, which were developed to represent best practice and with some of the toughest limits in the world; Ensuring all turbines are at least 1km from any residence; Seeking local landowner support, so that no turbine will be placed within 2km of someone without their consent; Seeking to communicate directly with all landowners living within 5km of a turbine and providing detailed information to help them understand the likely impact of the wind farm; Not placing turbines where they will have a serious effect on any threatened plant or animal, sites of heritage or Aboriginal significance, or a significant public viewshed; Placing into trust sufficient funds to enable decommissioning of the turbines if required; Ensuring that any local roads used for the project are upgraded and left in an improved condition after construction of the project.

• • •

• •

The three distance limits referred to above (1km, 2km and 5km) reflect the fact that impacts associated with noise, shadow flicker and visual amenity decrease with distance. While the relationship is not actually so simple (for instance someone on a hill at 2km may have a better view of the turbines than someone at 1km who is surrounded by trees or in a valley), these distances provide a useful and conservative guide. For instance, at 1km, noise and shadow flicker are generally at acceptable levels, though in some cases effects may extend out to 1.5km. By 2km, noise and shadow are no longer an issue, but visual amenity may still be affected out to about 5 km. Note also that visual amenity is typically considered to relate only to the impact on public views and viewsheds. Nevertheless, we will endeavour to minimise any impact on private viewsheds, and provide information (including photomontages, showing the turbines superimposed on a panoramic photo) to help individuals understand how it may impact them. If there are any specific aspects of the wind farm that concern you, we would be more than happy to answer your questions. We recommend that you consult independent information such as that referred to in this letter.

3

NEXT STEPS

The Draft National Wind Farm Development Guidelines (developed by the Australian to outline best practice for wind farm development) describe the following process for wind farm development as depicted on the following page.

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NEW is here

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While the process will be slightly different for us as a community rather than commercial project, this provides a good guide as to the stages of development. New England Wind has completed the Regional Site Selection and, as described earlier, we have selected a preferred local site. Negotiations with landowners were brought forward (in relation to the above diagram), because their involvement was integral to the site selection. We are currently undertaking the high level risk assessment, and this needs to address key risks of wind speed and grid connection. Thus, the next step is to undertake site measurements of wind speed to see if there is enough wind resource to make the project viable. At the same time, we are doing technical studies into grid connection options. These stages are likely to take up to a year to complete, at which stage we will have a much better idea as to whether the site is viable. During this time, we will continue to liaise with local landowners and the broader community. 3.A TOWN HALL FORUM

We plan to hold a public forum on the New England Wind project in the near future. Date and time will be advised as soon as possible.

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