EnergyConnect gets ‘leading’ sustainability rating

Two workers in high-vis workwear and safety gear inspect Black Box tree in Australian bushland at project EnergyConnect (rating)
Elecnor Australia Environmental Manager Catherine Curlewis and ENSPEC Aborist and Ecologist Craig Hallam inspect a Black Box tree on the EnergyConnect project alignment

EnergyConnect has become the first electricity transmission project in Australia to receive an official sustainability rating in recognition of a series of industry-leading initiatives in the design and delivery of the critical interconnector.

The Infrastructure Sustainability Council has awarded Australia’s largest transmission project the highest Design Rating of ‘Leading’.

Related article: Massive synchronous condensers arrive for EnergyConnect

Transgrid CEO Brett Redman said, “Transgrid and our construction partner Elecnor Australia are going above and beyond to set the benchmark in sustainability best practice for the future pipeline of energy transmission projects across the country.

“We are delivering real sustainability outcomes with innovative solutions to reducing our carbon footprint, minimising the use of energy and water, protecting valuable biodiversity, decreasing waste, and building in resilience against forecast climate impacts.

“Transgrid is delivering the nation’s transition to a clean energy future in a sustainable way by designing and constructing our critical transmission infrastructure to optimise environmental, social and economic outcomes.”

Key sustainability measures being implemented on EnergyConnect include:

  • A 35% reduction in clearing on the western alignment (South Australian border to Buronga) and 11% decrease on the eastern section (Buronga to Wagga) to preserve valuable biodiversity including trees up to 1,000 years old. Hundreds of thousands of trees have been physically inspected by arborists to assess their archaeological, ecological and cultural significance. Many trees including Aboriginal scar trees have been retained within the transmission line easement while still complying with vegetation clearance requirements. Annual inspections will ensure the lines stay clear to prevent bushfires.
  • Using guyed towers that require 21% less steel and 15% less concrete to construct compared to conventional self-supporting structures.
  • Locating transmission line structures to avoid valuable biodiversity and culturally sensitive sites.
  • The use of low carbon concrete in tower footings and substations. Contractors are required to use concrete with 35% supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) and 30% replacement of virgin fine aggregate with manufactured sand (where available).
  • Replacing tree hollows with nestboxes to provide fauna habitat for local species, with more than 1,500 installed on the western alignment, and thousands more to follow on the eastern section.
  • A 31% reduction in construction water use by using non-water based dust suppression alternatives and grey water from worker accommodation camps.
  • A 78% replacement of potable water with non-potable sources including treated grey water from worker accommodation camps.
  • Enduring benefits for local communities along the project alignment including the multi-million-dollar Legacy 100 program to train Australia’s own transmission line construction workforce and a $2 million scholarship fund for engineering students at Charles Sturt University.
  • Reducing waste to landfill including recycling 400 tonnes of wooden pallets and 50,000 cans and bottles from worker accommodation camps.

Related article: ETU alleges “major safety breaches” at EnergyConnect sites

Infrastructure Sustainability Council acting CEO Patrick Hastings congratulated the EnergyConnect team and Transgrid on achieving a Leading IS Design Rating.

“Through this project they have demonstrated their commitment to sustainability by being the first to achieve a Design Rating on a transmission project. EnergyConnect is well-positioned to deliver an asset that will provide a positive ecological benefit while also minimising its contribution to GHG emissions. This is a monumental step for transmission projects and an encouraging sign of progression in the sector,” he said.

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