Upper Burdekin Wind Farm

Fact centre

The Upper Burdekin Wind Farm Fact Centre is a useful resource for scientifically verified information in relation to the Upper Burdekin Wind Farm.

We welcome public discussion regarding the Upper Burdekin Wind Farm and encourage those with an interest in our projects to get in touch.

Images of the Upper Burdekin Wind Farm Project site captured in September 2022.

What is the regulatory review process for the Upper Burdekin Wind Farm?

Windlab’s development pathway is an iterative process that unfolds over a number of years. Through this process, an initial concept design for a project is scrutinised against extensive environmental and resource studies and refined based on detailed and ongoing consultation with the local community, regional stakeholders, conservation groups, resource management and regulatory authorities.

The comprehensive regulatory review process for wind farms in Queensland requires distinct approvals from Local, State and Federal Government authorities.

Federal Government Requirements

In October 2021 Windlab referred the project to the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment (DAWE) for assessment under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

The EPBC referral process ensures our plans for the Upper Burdekin Wind Farm align with the Commonwealth legislative framework that protects and manages nationally and internationally significant flora, fauna, ecological communities, and heritage places.

Several assessments were conducted to provide proper documentation for the initial Upper Burdekin Wind Farm EPBC referral, including:

  • Matters of National Environmental Significance
  • Land and Visual Impact Assessment
  • Noise Impact Assessment
  • Ecology Assessment
  • Stakeholder consultation.

The EPBC Referral was released to the public for comment and was reviewed by the Department and relevant ministers. In November 2021, Windlab received government feedback on our initial EPBC submission, and Windlab then began further studies to inform the Public Environment Report for the project.

As a direct result of the project’s extensive consultation and environmental study work spanning more than two years, Windlab has refined the project from its original 136-turbine concept design to an 80-turbine layout, removing about 50 turbines from the southern extent of the project area. This decision was made to:

  • Avoid impacts to high value vegetation and minimise habitat fragmentation for key species.
  • Reduce cumulative impacts association with other renewable energy projects proposed for the region.
  • Minimise the visual impact to the community of Mount Fox, in line with feedback from locals.
  • Focus on capturing best wind resource to deliver a balanced, efficient, high-performing asset.

The updated layout will be included in the project’s EPBC Public Environment Report (PER) which will be submitted before the end of 2022.

State Government requirements

The Upper Burdekin Wind Farm was required to meet Queensland’s Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning’s State Development State Code 23 assessment provisions.

State Code 23 assessment provisions require us to analyse the proposed project’s impact on a range of community, environmental and heritage values, and show clear plans for mitigating or managing these impacts.

Our approach was informed by close engagement with our host community, the knowledge of Traditional Owners and expert advice to ensure a robust proposal in line with community expectations.

This thorough process was completed over a two-year period, supported by over a dozen detailed assessments clearly articulating the expected impacts and our plans for mitigating or effectively managing these impacts.

The project’s EPBC referral includes plans for 136 turbines. Will all 136 turbines be constructed?

The 136-turbine layout detailed in the Upper Burdekin Wind Farm’s EPBC referral documentation, published in October 2021, is not the final project design.

For the initial EPBC referral, the layout defined the maximum possible number of turbines for the project area based on the available wind resource and the capacity of the existing transmission line. This baseline layout provided the starting point to work from as we completed the detailed technical and environmental studies and regulator and stakeholder consultation needed to support a thorough and robust development review process.

Since the EPBC referral was lodged, we have continued to consult with Traditional Owners, landowners, community members, conservation groups and regulatory authorities and have developed a revised project layout that eliminates approximately 50 turbines to the southern extent of the project area. This decision was made to mitigate potential impact to high value habitat in this area based on the findings of environmental study work conducted for the EPBC Public Environment Report (PER), and to reduce the impact of the project on the Mount Fox community, based on community feedback.

The updated layout will be included in the project’s EPBC PER documentation which will be submitted in the second half of 2022.

We are confident the revised project layout delivers a balanced design for an efficient, high performing wind farm while mitigating or appropriately managing impacts and meeting stakeholder expectations.

Is the project within the Wet Tropics?

No. The proposed Upper Burdekin Wind Farm is not within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The closest part of the project’s proposed development footprint is 4.8km from the World Heritage Area boundary, based on the revised layout which will be submitted as part of the project’s Public Environment Report.

We take environmental performance seriously. Expert studies completed for the Upper Burdekin Wind Farm found no significant direct or indirect impacts to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area associated with the project.

Based on extensive environmental study work and through engagement with regional conservation groups, we understand the Wet Tropics ecology does not stop at the boundary of the World Heritage Area, but blends across the adjacent areas and into the Einasleigh Uplands.

Our decision to eliminate about 50 turbines from the initial 136-turbine project layout was made to mitigate potential impact to high value vegetation, reduce habitat fragmentation across this blend area, and address the potential cumulative impact associated with other proposed renewable energy projects in the area, as well as minimise the visual impact of the project on the Mount Fox community.

How much vegetation will be cleared for the project?

Windlab is finalising its impact assessment for the EPBC Public Environment Report (PER), this includes detailed calculations for thevegetation removal required for the reduced project layout. This will be made public prior to the submission of the PER for the project, expected before the end of 2022.

For demonstrative purposes:

  • The project’s original 136-turbine layout was spread over a 52,000-hectare cattle property.
  • The impact assessment completed for the initial EPBC referral used the most conservative measure to calculate clearing requirements, identifying 871 hectares of vegetation requiring removal, or less than 1.7% of the total project area.
  • Of the 871-hectares, more than 90% of the vegetation to be cleared was categorised as ‘Least Concern’ regional ecosystems

We recognise the potential for any new development to have an impact. We are committed to working with experts and regional stakeholders to ensure a balanced project that delivers a net positive outcome to regional ecology.

Part of our commitment to delivering a net-positive outcome includes securing land with the right characteristics to establish protected habitat to offset any potential project impacts. This often involves significant work to rehabilitate degraded land, including weed, pest and fire management works in close consultation with Traditional Owners and the landowner, to deliver an overall improved outcome for regional biodiversity.

Are traditional owners being involved in project discussions?

Yes. In February 2022, we executed an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA)  with Native Title holders, the Gugu Badhun People. While we were working in partnership to establish the ILUA, Windlab collaborated with the Gugu Badhun for more than two years under a Cultural Heritage Management Agreement.

Under the ILUA, the Gugu Badhun People will take a leading role in delivering conservation and improvement initiatives with the project, including active land management incorporating traditional knowledge and techniques.

The ILUA also sets up a strong framework for Gugu Badhun People to be meaningfully involved in the project throughout its life, through sustainable education, employment, and enterprise opportunities.

The ILUA will also see the Gugu Badhun People officially name the project in their traditional language, and design artwork for three of the project’s turbine towers.

The Gugu Badhun provided input on the project layout throughout the development process, and we will continue to consult and partner with the Gugu Badhun throughout the life of the project.

Has Windlab consulted with regional conservation groups about the project?

Yes. Windlab has met on a collaborative basis with a range of dedicated conservation groups to ensure they understand the project, have the opportunity to provide feedback and importantly, to sense-check our development and engagement approach.

This process has proven to be incredibly valuable and has resulted in a range of leading-practice initiatives being implemented for the project, including the addition of a simple, user friendly EPBC referral portal on the Upper Burdekin Wind Farm website to maximise transparency and accessibility of information, and a commitment to taking part in CSIRO’s National Koala Monitoring Program.

How will Windlab protect valuable habitat for species?

We are committed to proactive protection of areas of high ecological value within the project area and minimising impacts, including habitat fragmentation, as far as possible. This work starts early in the development phase and is completed in a staged way.

Stage 1 – Ecology and habitat mapping

The first phase involves building a detailed understanding of the ecological values present across the entire project site. This includes mapping known and potential habitat and observing habitat connectivity over several years and across different seasons, using a proven and reliable scientific methodology.

We have now completed this work for the Upper Burdekin Wind Farm. Our understanding of the habitat and ecology on the project site is informed and factual, not speculative.

Stage 2 – Targeted ecology and vegetation surveys relative to proposed project footprint

The second step, which is currently underway, involves conducting targeted surveys for specific species, based on a clearer understanding the project’s footprint. This process provides an added layer of assurance in terms of understanding and managing our impacts, and ensuring our approach stands up to the highest level of scrutiny.

Stage 1 and Stage 2 are completed over several years, preceding the development of the final design. It is critically important we get these stages right in line with our commitments to our stakeholders and communities, and to protect the viability of the project from a program, constructability, and commercial perspective.

Stage 3 – Operational Flora and Fauna management plans and protocols

Finally, we have a comprehensive ongoing ecological survey program and robust management protocols which will be implemented during construction and throughout the life of the project.

There are several other projects proposed for the area. How are the cumulative impacts of these projects being addressed by Upper Burdekin Wind Farm?

The potential cumulative impact of planned developments in the area is a risk that will be carefully considered by the regulator. Windlab is proactively engaging with regulatory authorities and other stakeholders to share industry knowledge that will support risk-based government decision-making. Additionally, cumulative impact was a factor Windlab considered as part of our decision to reduce the project footprint by removing about 50 turbines to the southern extend of the project area.

Windlab is also working with regional conservation and research partners to establish how we can work together to incorporate leading practice into our impact management approach, to support scientific understanding and collaboration in addressing cumulative impacts.

Why are such big turbine blades being used in the project?

Large turbine blades generate more power than smaller blades. This means a project can produce more clean energy with less turbines, reducing the clearance footprint of the project relative to the power generated.

The turbine blades most likely to be used at the Upper Burdekin Wind Farm will be around 80 to 85m long, with a wind turbine hub height of 140 to 150m. Windlab will be seeking regulatory approval for turbine blades up to 100m in length, with a tower hub height (the height of the tower from the ground to the centre of the turbines) of up to 200m.

The regulatory review and approvals process is designed to ensure the project is assessed based on the scenario of highest potential impact. This ensures impact mitigation strategies supporting the project are robust.

What is the carbon footprint of a wind turbine and how long does it take to offset this footprint?

The emissions footprint of a wind turbine across its entire lifecycle is approximately 2.15 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Based on our wind data at Upper Burdekin Wind Farm, it will take just 70 days of wind energy generation to offset this emissions footprint in full.

The average emissions intensity of non-renewable generators is almost one tonne of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour. Australia’s National Electricity Market average grid intensity is 620kg of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of power. Renewable energy generators reduce the emissions intensity of the grid. New projects like Upper Burdekin Wind Farm with net zero carbon footprint after the first 70 days, will help to reduce the carbon intensity of the grid further.

Analysis is based on a 35% energy production capacity factor (the ratio of actual electrical output over the theoretical maximum electrical output). A capacity factor of 35% is conservative based on our studies of Upper Burdekin Wind Farm’s wind resource.

I have heard wind turbines are a cause of bird and bat deaths due to ‘turbine strike’. How will the risk be managed at Upper Burdekin Wind Farm?

Bird and bat strike is a potential impact associated with wind farms that must be effectively managed. We are working hard with a team of ecologist to conduct extensive studies of all birds and bats in the project area and surrounds, to better understand the behaviour and flight patterns of species present, and how these will be affected by the sweep of the turbines.

Importantly, any potential impacts must be assessed against modern, accurate data, and management approaches informed by important detail contextualising the strike risk compared to existing threats to birds and bats in the area. For Upper Burdekin Wind Farm, some of these risks include feral cats, bushfire, and climate change.

Applying a thorough, evidence and risk-based approach to the management of all impacts associated with the development of the Upper Burdekin Wind Farm is critical. This important detail, as well as input from Traditional Owners and conservation experts, will determine how the project’s management plans, environmental improvement work and ongoing contribution to the scientific record through study partnerships, can support net-positive improvements to regional biodiversity.

Do wind turbine blades have ‘serrated’ edges?

No. Some modern wind turbines have bristles on the back edge of the blade, called ‘noise attenuators’ that reduce the risk of noise as the blade moves through the air.

The presence of noise attenuators on turbine blades has no impact on bird or bat mortality associated with turbine strike.

Noise attenuators are a key technological improvement that helps reduce noise associated with old-technology wind turbines. The design of noise attenuators was inspired by the feature of owls’ feathers that enable silent flight.

How will you get the turbines to site?

Turbine components and all project construction equipment and materials will be transported to site from the Port of Townsville, via Charters Towers and the Gregory Development Road.

Some upgrades to existing roads may be needed, and this will be planned and completed in close consultation with Charters Tower Shire Council, road users, and the State Government.

We will not be using the Mount Fox Road for any heavy vehicle movements, nor will we be constructing new roads outside the project area. Access tracks within the project area will be designed to minimise vegetation clearing and avoid valuable habitat areas.

How can I have my say?

The Upper Burdekin team will be holding a range of engagement and consultation activities in the community throughout 2022 and beyond.

Community members are invited to join our local mailing list to receive project updates, via the portal in the footer of the Upper Burdekin Wind Farm project website.

We encourage anyone interested in the project to contact the Upper Burdekin Wind Farm team via upperburdekin@windlab.com, or by phoning.

Still have questions?

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