In the hills of New South Wales’ New England Tablelands, there is a frenzy of activity, day and night, as the White Rock Wind Farm nears completion.
The CECEP and Goldwind-owned wind farm is being built to provide a clean, renewable energy source – enough to power 75,000 homes annually. Stage one of the White Rock Wind Farm project consists of 70 turbines that will produce 175MW of electricity.
Among countless contractors bringing this renewable energy project to life is Zinfra, who is putting the finishing touches on the newly constructed 132/33kv substation, secondary and auxiliary systems buildings, and a dual circuit 8km transmission line, to tie the new energy source into TransGrid’s network.
Throughout the project a consultative approach, coupled with Zinfra’s extensive network and electrical knowledge, has led to improved construction methodologies for TransGrid.
Using in-house resources, Zinfra has delivered a broad range of capabilities including electrical, construction, testing and commissioning, pre-energisation commissioning, construction works, SCADA and communications, fibre and the cutting in of new feeders.
Like all projects of this size, delivery has not been without its challenges. The biggest hurdle faced from the outset of the project was an accelerated schedule.
The original delivery timeframe of 35 weeks was shortened by 90 days – that’s a 35 per cent reduction before work even began.
As a national company with extensive resources, Zinfra was able to mobilise extra resources to site in a short timeframe to meet this accelerated delivery schedule. Electricians, linesman, testing and commissioning employees and their support team were brought in to expedite works.
Zinfra’s suppliers also pulled out all stops to help meet tight targets. Secondary systems building fabricator ICS Industries delivered their buildings ahead of schedule, and civil contractor TP Turners worked collaboratively with Zinfra to produce clever solutions to help beat the clock.
Civil works for the substation site were planned in such a way that the different site areas were delivered in stages in order for Zinfra to commence electrical construction while civil works continued concurrently.
The civil team also provided invaluable time saving measures to counter the other big challenge facing crews at the wind farm –inclement weather.
The weather at White Rock Wind Farm is highly changeable and can be wet and windy. Rainy weather, however, has proved the greatest nemesis for this project.
A single day of rain can lead to two weeks of downtime as damp, muddy and slippery conditions make heavy machinery use impossible.
The civil team prepared the substation site in such a way as to mitigate the risk of down time from a downpour. They graded the site well and put down swathes of sheeting to assist with run-off, and facilitate a fast return to work for the construction teams after rain.
Access on site, which extends over a 10km range, was via a single road on which all contractors had to travel.
Constructed for the project, the road was subject to the vagaries of wet weather, the landholders’ livestock and the frequent oversized deliveries of turbine blades and parts.
The dual circuit transmission line runs from the existing TransGrid network at the bottom of the site location, at approximately 900m above sea level, and ends at the substation 1200m above sea level.
The line includes two long spans – one 600m and the other 900m – to breach deep ravines along its path.
The steep terrain and wet conditions meant getting in to clear an easement and erect the 47 transmission poles over 30 sites was no mean feat.
Pointing to some poles emerging from between the trees in the distance, project manager Michael Moczynski said, “They’re my poles out there, you’ve no idea how hard it was to get them in there.”
The erection of the final two dual circuit transmission poles occurred at the end of May when TransGrid scheduled a one-day outage for the works.
Stringing of the cables was expedited by the use of helicopters. After exhaustive preparation, risk mitigation and safety controls were implemented and helicopters successfully strung approximately 26km of cable and OPGW over three days.
Safety First on site has been a non-negotiable, however, on a project of this scale there are always challenges.
“Teamwork has been critical on this site,” Zinfra’s on-site safety advisor Jamie Mills said.
“With crews having to change in and out regularly because of weather delays, it has been important for the crews to communicate well and absorb change.”
Where safety issues have arisen and challenges been faced, Zinfra implemented controls and learnt from experience.
“We have to confront challenges, the worst thing we could do is not learn from them. They are an opportunity to improve,” Mr Mills said.
Mr Moczynski said he was feeling buoyed by the prospect of energisation of the newly constructed infrastructure.
“A lot of people have put in a lot of hard work to overcome the challenges on this project,” he said.
“We couldn’t have achieved what we have without the amazing collaboration displayed by our team with our clients, TransGrid and Goldwind, not to mention all the other contractors on site. We’re proud of what we’ve done here.”
Zinfra is also delivering construction work at the nearby Sapphire Wind Farm for TransGrid.
The CWP-owned wind farm will comprise 75 turbines and, once completed, will supply 110,000 houses with clean energy annually.
The greenfield construction project involves construction of a 330/33kV substation for the and line cut-in works on the 330kV Queensland NSW Interconnector (QNI) to facilitate the wind farm connection to the grid, and includes civil, electrical, testing and commissioning work.
TransGrid awarded Zinfra this project after an eight-month period of joint project development, with value-adds by Zinfra in design and optimisation for construction.
Works commenced in January and the project is scheduled for completion in late 2017.