It is a requirement of the development approval process that a full, independent quantitative aviation impact assessment be undertaken. It is anticipated that this assessment will make recommendations designed to mitigate all aviation risks to an acceptably low level.
The solar farm is expected to have a negligible effect on aviation. It involves the construction of no tall structures (modules are ground mounted, typically less than a few metres tall) and hence there is little possibility of radio or radar interference.
Aviators often express concern about glare and reflection although this is really only an issue for solar thermal plant, which utilise mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a (linear or point) receiver. Photovoltaics by contrast are flat and therefore reflect only diffusely (i.e. not into a point or a line). Solar PV panels are specifically designed to absorb sunlight. In order to do this, they are dark-coloured, have anti-reflective coatings and reflect only a small portion (approximately 10%1) of the light which falls onto them.
Agricultural vegetation by comparison typically reflects between 18% and 25%2 of the light which falls onto it, meaning that PV arrays typically reflect less light than does the surrounding vegetation.
1. Lasnier and Ang. 1990. Photovoltaic Engineering Handbook. New York: Taylor & Francis.
2. Budikova, Dagmar. 2010. "Albedo." Encyclopedia of Earth.Washington,D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment. Retrieved Jan 20th, 2010 at 11.53 pm http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/149954/
DP Energy engaged independent cultural heritage consultants to advise on both indigenous and non-indigenous cultural heritage considerations. The methodology adopted takes a two-step approach to the protection of cultural heritage: a full anthropological risk assessment and an initial archaeological survey prior to lodgement of the development application, followed by a comprehensive archaeological survey and monitoring program during construction. This approach means that the project can be designed to avoid culturally sensitive areas while allowing maximum flexibility for design changes in response to any objects discovered during construction. In addition to the cultural heritage studies, DP Energy is consulting directly with the Nukunu People who are the Traditional Owners of the land. This will continue as the project progresses.
It is a key objective of ecological assessments to suggest measures to avoid, reduce and mitigate any potential impacts and great care has been taken in the siting of the turbines and solar arrays in order to minimise these impacts. Detailed ecological field assessments undertaken over the entire site area identified sensitive areas for both flora and fauna. As a result of the findings of these studies, the design of the project has been through a number of iterations in order to minimise environmental disturbance. These design changes include the removal of a number of turbines from the layout, as well as the relocation of turbines, cableways and roads to avoid environmentally sensitive areas. Where environmental impacts cannot be avoided entirely DP Energy will be required to offset any residual environmental impacts resulting from the proposed project. The scale of these offsets is determined according to well established formulae laid down in legislation.
DP Energy will consult with the relevant authorities in order to assess and mitigate against any possible fire risks associated with the proposed development. Modern wind turbines are equipped with sophisticated fire detection and suppression systems. In the extremely unlikely event of a fire starting in a turbine, these systems provide an early warning to the wind farm operator, who can then alert the appropriate authorities. The access tracks built to service the wind farm act as firebreaks and provide safe and fast access to the turbines. Solar farms, by their nature tend to cover (and therefore shade) the vast majority of the land on which they sit. For operational reasons, the vegetation within the project must be controlled throughout the lifetime of the project. In terms of the infrastructure itself, there always remains the possibility of fires, however due to the lack of natural fuel, and the good access provided by the tracks servicing the project, the fire risk is greatly reduced.
An independent noise assessment will form part of the Development Application Report. Noise from the project will be required to conform to EPA guidelines. The proposed Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park is designed such that no turbine is closer than 2km from any neighbouring dwelling. Noise levels at neighbouring properties are expected to be below 30dBA. To put this into perspective, the diagram below indicates the approximate perceived noise levels associated with a number of common sources. The level indicated for a wind turbine assumes typical setback distances of 500m whilst the noise level at 2km is likely to be similar to that in the background. Solar modules produce no sound other than that produced by the wind flowing past them. Inverters do produce noise by virtue of their cooling fans. Noise from the project will be required to conform to EPA guidelines. It is anticipated that the noise levels from the solar farm will be well below the required level.
The site of the proposed Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park is entirely grazing land. There is no broadacre cropping conducted on the site. Wind farms are generally agreed to have a positive impact on primary production activities, as they provide a means of income diversification for agricultural landholders. Wind farm rental payments increase farm viability by providing an independent non-farm income stream, helping landholders ride through times of flood, fire, drought, etc. These benefits flow through to the wider community. This is particularly true with respect to grazing activities; a wind farm typically takes up less than 2% of landholder property meaning that traditional grazing practices can continue virtually unchanged.
The access tracks associated with the wind farm can in fact increase the efficiency of the farming operation through improved accessibility. Obviously, a large solar development such as the one proposed will exclude the possibility of grazing within the solar field. However the site chosen for the solar component of the project is extremely marginal grazing land, and carries only a few head of stock. It was chosen specifically for this reason and actually represents the area with the lowest environmental values and the poorest grazing potential of the entire site.
Careful planning during the turbine siting can resolve this potential issue but in fact shadow casting problems are generally restricted to a few areas very close to the turbines. The further you get away from a turbine the less pronounced the shadow is and the less potential there is for shadow flicker. Shadow flicker is not expected to present a problem for any neighbours of the proposed Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park due to the generous setbacks that DP Energy have designed into the project. An assessment of shadow flicker will form part of the Development Assessment Report.
DP Energy will be undertaking an electromagnetic interference assessment of the proposed project. It is anticipated however that these issues will be minimised by virtue of the fact that the site is located on a coastal flat, and the area is very sparsely populated. This assessment will form part of the Development Assessment Report.
Perception of the visual impacts of a wind farm or solar farm, and whether those impacts are viewed negatively or positively, is very subjective and is obviously coloured by each person’s opinion of wind turbines or solar energy in general. DP Energy has designed the Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park in line with principles of development objectives listed within the Port Augusta City Council and District Council of Mount Remarkable Development Plans.
Some of these objectives include designing the project such that wind turbine generators are in straight rows and are uniform in colour, size, shape and blade rotation direction. The Development Plans also stipulate that to manage visual amenity, wind turbine generators need to be set back at least 1km from non-associated dwellings. The Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park turbines are sited to achieve a minimum 2km setback from non-associated dwellings.
As part of the development application process, a number of photographic representations (photomontages) illustrating the likely appearance of the turbines and how the project will look from various viewpoints will be created and will be available on this website. The proposed solar farm will employ a vegetated buffer zone around the perimeter of the Project. Given that the site is extremely flat, this buffer will reduce visibility of the solar array from the majority of viewpoints.
Following the announcement on 5th August 2016 that Development Approval had been received from the South Australian Government the project is now at the post-consent, pre-construction stage. Over the coming months detailed plans will be prepared for construction, and these will include further engagement with local communities and establishing clear communications, particularly during construction activities on site.
The Project is expected to be built out over a period of approximately 18 months, commencing late 2018/early 2019, with all phases being fully energised and delivering renewable energy into the South Australian electricity network by 2020.
Below are links to a number of fact sheets and other resources.
Fact Sheets on Wind Energy:
Eurpoean Wind Energy Association
UK Department of Energy and Climate Change
Fact Sheets on Solar Energy:
Clean Energy Council
European Photovoltaic Industry Association
Greenpeace International & European Photovoltaic Industry Association
Melbourne Energy Institute