Regional wind: Collgar Wind Farm

The commissioning of Collgar Wind Farm’s 111 wind turbines has almost doubled Western Australia’s renewable power generation.

Fast facts
Project Size206 MW
Number of turbines111 turbines
Turbine typeVestas V90 2.0MW turbines
(de-rated to 1.856MW)
First EnergyMay 2011
Annual average energy production792,000 MWH producing enough electricity to power up to 125,000 homes.
Tonnes of CO2 emissions savedUp to 700,000 per annum – equivalent to taking up to 160,000 cars off the road every year.
Expected operating life25 years
ContractorVestas Australian Wind Technology
Size of the farmThe site is located on 18,000 hectares of land approximately 25 km south east of Merredin.
Cost of the ProjectThe wind farm is a $750 million project.

Linking to the grid

Two substations will step up the power generated into the grid from Collgar Wind Farm. The wind turbines’ power will be stepped up to 33 kV and travel through underground or overhead line to a newly constructed substation with two transformers. There they will stepped up to a 220 kV line and passed over to Western Power.

Western Power cut into Collgar’s 220 V transmission line carrying power between Kalgoorlie and Perth and connected it to a substation built on the wind farm in May. Merredin, Kalgoorlie and other affected towns had alternative power routes arranged during the five-day cut-in so no interruptions in power were experienced.

Western Power managing director, Doug Aberle said it was a significant project for the business.

“The project involved the construction of a purpose-built substation and other infrastructure to provide connection including cutting in to the Merredin -Yilgarn transmission line,” Mr Aberle said.

“Western Power is pleased to have delivered the connection project under budget and ahead of schedule,”

“This project demonstrates Western Power’s commitment to enabling sustainable, renewable energy sources to benefit consumers and to help make a major contribution to WA’s greenhouse gas reductions,” Mr Aberle said.


 

A flat belt of gold and brown wheat surrounds the small central Western Australia town of Merriden, located halfway between Perth and Kalgoorlie. Few trees, hills or rocky outcrops disturb the skyline south east of the town, allowing wind to cut through unabated. A sparsely populated area with high wind capacity factors and predictability, its unique topography makes it ideal for the state’s renewable energy future. It is here that construction on Collgar Wind Farm’s 111 turbines has recently been completed and commissioned, adding 206 MW of wind power into the south-west interconnected system (SWIS).

The $750 million renewable energy facility is the largest wind farm in WA and the largest single-stage wind farm development in the southern hemisphere to date. The project is more than double the nearest biggest WA wind farm and will take the amount of renewable generation in the SWIS from 5 to 9 per cent. Collgar will generate and deliver an average of 792,000 MWh, making a major contribution to WA’s greenhouse gas reductions. It produces enough electricity to power approximately 125,000 homes with renewable energy annually.

Export of the first renewable energy from the wind farm into the SWIS occurred in May.

Collgar Wind Farm is owned 60 per cent by the UBS International Infrastructure Fund (UBS) and 40 per cent by the Retail Employees Superannuation Trust (REST). The UBS International Infrastructure Fund is managed by UBS Global Asset Management. Collgar will be the fund’s fourth investment and its first greenfield acquisition. Headquartered in Switzerland, UBS is a global firm providing financial services to private, corporate and institutional clients.

The project location was selected for its unique topography, world-class wind resource, favourable community rapport and proximity to the power grid. Collgar Wind Farm will mostly feed towards the outlying towns leading to Kalgoorlie’s mining centre, but it will on occasion feed back towards Perth. A 220 kV line connecting Kalgoorlie to Perth runs across the site, minimising losses between production and grid feed.

Overseeing the project is Collgar Wind Farm CEO, Alistair Craib. The 35-year-old has a background in financing projects and led UBS’ 50 per cent ownership in the $1.5 billion fund before becoming CEO. Mr Craib is proud of the contribution Collgar is making to Australia’s renewable future.

“I think it shows that Western Australia is making some attempts to contribute to the renewable energy targets and the fact that a big project like this can get built in a remote part of Western Australia is, I think, a good story for renewables as well as for Western Australia,” Mr Craib told Energy Source & Distribution.

“One of the interesting things about this project is that it’s a super investment fund investing directly into greenfield infrastructure investment. That doesn’t happen often. There’s a lot of money out there looking for good quality assets to fund,” he said.

Superannuation funds looking for long-term investment require political certainty. The introduction of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) hasn’t had an impact on the project due to contracted pricing, while Mr Craib has also accounted for a potential carbon price.

“There’s obviously prices out there for renewable energy credits that have value, obviously that value is fluctuating due to the solar roof-top scheme and hence the introduction of the large-scale RET and small-scale RET. Effectively we negotiated a price with a offtaker for a bundled rate which is CPI-linked. Effectively they take all our renewable credits, whether they be LRECS or RECs and any other sort of environmental credits that might be passed through over time,” Mr Craib said.

“So if the carbon tax comes in and it replaces some of the old RET then effectively it won’t affect our bottom line. We get paid a bundled rate per megawatt hour,” he said.

Vestas’ wind turbines were selected due to cost and quality.

“Basically Veastas are world leaders in turbine manufacturing. They’re a very good corporation; we’ve got a great relationship with them,” he said.

“The fund invests on behalf of super funds and sovereign wealth funds. For a long- term investment it’s better to get quality, even if it costs more.”

While the upcoming 420 MW MaCarthur wind farm in Victoria will be larger than Collgar, for now Collgar can lay claim to the Southern Hemisphere’s largest single-stage project. UBS is now planning further wind-farm projects in Western Australia and other opportunities.

“It was a team effort, so I can’t take all the credit that’s for sure, but its good to be part of a successful project and I think the contractors have done a great job – Downer EDI, Vestas and Western Power – they had to build a substation which they did on time so I think it’s been a great team effort and I’m just glad its gone well,” Mr Craib said.