Major Project: Murra Warra Wind Farm

Murra Warra Wind Farm at sunset
Murra Warra Wind Farm (Image: RES Australia)

Located in north-west Victoria, construction on Stage 2 of the Murra Warra Wind Farm project is powering along, with the site now boasting Australia’s largest wind turbine. Energy Source & Distribution gets the lowdown on this milestone project.

Some 25km north of Horsham, between the Henty Highway and the Blue Ribbon Road, RES Australia’s Murra Warra Wind Farm is in its second stage of construction. Upon expected completion in the third quarter of 2022, it will comprise 99 turbines in total.

With its low environmental impact, Murra Warra is the ideal location for a wind farm. Situated on 4,250ha of farmland used for sheep grazing and broadacre cropping, the wind farm footprint is less than 2 per cent of this area. In addition to its minimal effects on agricultural productivity, Murra Warra was chosen for its good wind resource, close transport links, and an onsite connection to the grid network.

RES Australia construction services team leader Anthony Berzi (Image: RES Australia)

Related article: Victorian govt puts $40m into offshore wind

According to RES Australia construction services team leader Anthony Berzi, Murra Warra Wind Farm Stage 2 consists of the design, construction and commissioning of a 209MW wind farm on a brownfield site as an extension to the existing wind farm development Murra Warra Wind Farm Stage 1, which has 38 turbines exporting power to Murra Warra Terminal Station (MRTS) and into the Victorian transmission network.

“Tracks, hardstands, foundations, transmission lines and facilities, including the O&M facility, have been completed,” Anthony says of Stage 2’s progress.

“The first wind turbine was completed in late September, with eight turbines completed to date with a further 16 partially constructed. All turbine components have safely arrived in the country with the majority already delivered to site.”

 Murra Warra Wind Farm has taken ownership of Australia’s first GE Cypress 5.5-158 turbine—the largest wind turbine in the country. Upon completion, 38 GE Cypress turbines, each rated at 5.5MW, will tower over the surrounding countryside. 

“The components are delivered to Portland in western Victoria, with transport routes between Portland and the wind farm upgraded for Stage 1, and only minor further upgrades required for Stage 2,” Anthony says of the logistics involved.

“Although the blades themselves are longer, the turbine blades are unique in that they are transported in two parts, allowing the existing transport route to be utilised.

“Some pre-assembly of the components was undertaken in Portland, requiring fewer logistics to get them to site. Once onsite, the turbines are installed utilising a Liebherr LG1750-SX crane, which is essentially the only mobile crane capable of lifting the components to a height of 141m, with the heaviest component being the nacelle at 85 tonnes. 

“Once installation and internal fitout has been completed, the team then moves to commissioning each individual turbine before being ready to commence generating and exporting electricity to the transmission system.”  

Each renewable project of this scale comes with many challenges, however, Murra Warra has been built completely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Anthony explains.

“The team has had to adjust to these difficult working arrangements onsite in line with Victorian government guidelines, which has been managed extremely well,” he says.

“The pandemic has also introduced challenges with respect to procurement and logistics, given much of the infrastructure is manufactured offshore. Again, the team has done a fantastic job of planning and coordinating the works to minimise impacts to the project.

One of the massive GE Cypress 5.5-158 turbines being unloaded for transport to the site (Image: RES Australia)

Related article: Berrybank 1 Wind Farm commences operation

“The biggest challenge the pandemic has brought to the project, however, has been the fact the team on the ground have been isolated from family and friends due to travel restrictions across borders. The sacrifices made by the team to ensure the project is a success has been testament to the resolve of all involved and is greatly appreciated.”     

Asked about the most personally rewarding part of his job, Anthony says, “Being a part of the energy transition to cleaner more sustainable power generation is the most gratifying part of my job. It is a very exciting time to be in this industry and it is equally enjoyable to be surrounded by like-minded people who are passionate about enabling Australia to move to a cleaner energy future. 

“Another rewarding aspect of constructing these assets is the positive impact they bring to the local regional community. The financial flow-on into the community is significant and has been in some cases at a time where drought has been quite impactful. Wind farms require personnel to operate them for the life of the project. Between Murra Warra Wind Farm 1 and 2, there will be approximately 12 full-time employees engaged with a high likelihood from the local area.”