Community Impact

Community Impact

communityInt

WestWind Energy (WestWind) appreciates that community engagement goes well beyond the requirements necessary under the planning permit and is committed to business practices that are good for people, communities, and the planet.   Hence, the WestWind team has undertaken extensive community and stakeholder engagement since project prospecting commenced in 2005. Following a commercial decision to pursue a planning permit for the Project in 2016, engagement efforts have increased significantly to advance the development of a social license to operate a wind farm in the community; while concurrently satisfying regulatory requirements of the EES and planning process.

WestWind views community and stakeholder engagement as an essential element to Project success, and has developed an EES, Quarry, and Primary Stakeholder Engagement Plan (SEP) to guide engagement through the project lifecycle. These engagement strategies are used as a framework to ensure the community understands the development and planning process, and that stakeholder concerns are adequately managed.

Through adherence to the project engagement plans, and by responding appropriately to the concerns and issues of various stakeholders, WestWind has been able to produce an EES for the Project that properly responds to the broad spectrum of environmental and social impacts.  The following sections outline some of the key stakeholder concerns typical of wind farm developments.  By working collaboratively with the community, WestWind can ensure the benefits of the development flow across the community, helping to secure the vital social licence required to develop the project.

EES Objective:  To manage potential adverse effects of construction and operational turbine noise for the community, businesses and land users.

Like almost anything in life whether it be cars, stereos, your co-workers or the wind itself, wind turbines do make sound. Sound from wind turbines can be mechanical (such as from the gearbox) or aerodynamic (from air moving past the blades). Modern turbine designs have greatly reduced the mechanical sounds to the point where what is normally heard at a wind farm is a light “whooshing” sound of the blades passing through the air.

Many factors influence wind farm noise, including distance from the turbine, height, topography, vegetation, and wind conditions, but overall wind farms are very quiet compared to other industrial facilities.

The figures in this animation are for demonstration purposes only and are not intended to be exact estimations of expected noise levels.

Background noise information is used as a means of setting limits for ancillary infrastructure and wind turbine components of a wind farm project. However, in rural areas where wind farms are typically developed, the background noise data is generally most relevant to the assessment of the wind turbines. This is due to the need to consider the changes in background noise levels and wind turbine noise levels for different wind conditions.

A typical Planning Permit for a Wind Farm requires the operator to meet stringent noise limits, and heavy penalties apply for non-compliance. A noise compliance testing plan will be established for the Project and then endorsed by an auditor accredited under the Environment Protection Act 1970, and noise monitoring must be completed in accordance with this plan.

Of the approx. 220 noise locations within 3 km of the proposed turbines at the Golden Plains Wind Farm, there are 127 locations where predicted wind farm noise levels are higher than 35 dBLA90. In accordance with NZS 6808:2010, background noise monitoring should be carried out where wind farm sound levels of 35 dBLA90 or higher are predicted but this is not a mandatory requirement as a fixed base noise limit can be used at all wind speeds to provide reliable indicative results for development purposes. Prior to the construction or operation background noise data is collected again and will involve the reanalysis with a refined wind data set based on additional measurements of site wind trends and patterns.

A survey of noise levels was carried out at 15 locations near the wind farm. The properties were selected based on their geographical location to the site. The background noise survey comprised unattended noise monitoring between 21 March and 15 May 2017 for a period of typically three weeks at each location. Wind speeds, at different locations across the site, were measured at the same time to identify the correlation between the wind speed and the noise level.

The noise levels from wind turbines increase as the wind speed at the site increases. However, background noise also generally increases under these conditions and masks the noise from the turbine.

Construction phase

The construction of the Golden Plains Wind Farm may generate noise that may be discernible for short periods of time in some nearby residences. Throughout the wind farm construction, we will keep residents well informed about increased traffic periods and increased construction activity.
In addition, we will work with the local community to alleviate any potential noise impacts.
Although there are no noise requirements for day time construction activities (excluding weekends), construction noise during the night is required to be inaudible inside a habitable room except for unavoidable works and night period low-noise or managed-impact works approved by the local authority.

Unavoidable works relevant to the construction of the Golden Plains Wind Farm include, but are not limited to, the delivery of large size items such as wind turbine blades at night due to the risk of traffic hazard during the daytime. For such works, the guidelines require that affected premises are notified of the intended work, the duration and times of occurrence.

The predicted noise levels during construction were based on the proposed construction equipment and the corresponding sound power levels for each item. The noise levels were predicted for the nearest noise sensitive locations for the following construction phases:

• Access road construction;
• Cable trench digging;
• Collector substation construction;
• Concrete batching plants;
• Terminal station construction;
• Temporary site compound construction;
• Turbine assembly; and
• Turbine foundations

The results of the assessment showed that the highest noise impact will occur during access road construction. To respond to construction related noise impacts, WestWind has accepted the recommendation for a construction noise management plan to be prepared which includes noise associated with general construction activities.

Mercer Construction Ash

Operational phase

The operational noise impact assessment considered noise levels from the wind turbines and ancillary infrastructure including power transformers and overhead power lines.

The New Zealand Standard Acoustics-wind farm noise (NZS 6808:2010) applies to wind farms approved in Victoria since 2010. This standard requires wind farm noise to be below 40 dB LA90, or 5 dBA LA90 above the background level, whichever is higher for all neighbouring residents.

The results of the noise assessment showed that for all neighbour dwellings, the kindergarten and primary school, the predicted noise level was below 40 dB LA90.

For noise sensitive locations further from the wind farm, predicted noise levels were shown to be lower than or equal to 35 dB LA90, therefore complying with the applicable NZS 6808:2010 noise limit.

EES Objective: Manage potential adverse effects for the community, businesses and land users with regards to EMI.

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) is the disruption, degradation or interference with the effective performance of an electromagnetic device. Interference from turbines can be produced from three main elements:

• The tower;
• Rotating blades; and
• The generator.

Towers and blades may obstruct, reflect or refract the electromagnetic waves. The modern day synthetic composition of a turbine blade allows for a minimal impact on the transmission of electromagnetic radiation. In most cases the electrical system of a turbine does not cause telecommunications interference as this can be eliminated with proper nacelle insulation and good maintenance. Issues with electromagnetic interference occur when signals, both electric and magnetic, are emitted from a transmitter, and directed to a receiver and experience interference. The interference can produce a weaker signal, fragmented reception of the signal, or complete loss of signal.

The primary risk for EMI involves existing point-to-point signals being interrupted by wind turbines. However, while 15 telecommunications towers are within 75km of the project site, not all towers produce signals that run through the project site. An independent comprehensive EMI study has been completed that, includes consultation with the relevant tower operators located near the site.

The Project design has considered the EMI tower locations in the layout to prevent blockage or reflection of major point-to-point or point to multipoint signals by wind turbine blades. Due to these Project design considerations, the impact from EMI on surrounding licensed services, including telecommunication and broadcasting television signal transmitters and receivers, is considered to be low to very low. A typical planning permit will require the wind farm operator to employ further mitigation measures if interference is recorded when the wind farm is operational. Prior to the construction of turbines, the wind farm operator will typically undertake a baseline test to be used as validation if interference is encountered.

EES Objective: To minimize and manage potential adverse effects on landscape and visual amenity for the community.

Wind turbines have a direct effect on landscape appearance. This effect is only existent during the life of the wind farm as wind turbines are dismantled at the end of the projects life cycle. WestWind recognises that wind turbines are prominent structures, and they will have a direct impact on landscape within the Project viewshed (area in which turbines can been seen). Wind turbines will be visible in many areas, which can impact the public’s experience of these areas.

The Project will be developed amongst a broad-acre rural landscape that has undergone agricultural modification to create expansive areas for farming. Within this, Rokewood and the surrounding rural area in which the Project is proposed to be located, is a landscape that includes many man-made elements. The region within the viewshed of the wind farm is characterised by extensive volcanic plains and as having a gentle gradient, except for a few elevated features such as the volcanic cones or rocky outcrops known as ‘stony rises’.

The area that may be visually affected by the development extends up to 26km from the nearest wind turbine. Within the viewshed there are different zones of visual influence which are determined based on the distance from the wind turbines. There are several small townships located within the view shed. These include Lismore and Inverleigh, on the Hamilton Highway, which are located just on the edge of the viewshed, whilst Skipton, Ballarat and Geelong are all outside the viewshed.

The seen-area analysis above shows the areas within the viewshed from which sections of wind turbines may be visible or not visible based solely on topography. The visual impact was assessed from a variety of vantage points including highways and local roads, recreation reserves and creeks and waterways.

Aviation Lighting

EES Objective:  To manage potential adverse effects for the community, businesses and land users with regard to aviation safety.

The Project is considered unlikely to affect aviation operations or to have an adverse impact on aviation safety due to the lack of regular flights from airfields within the Project area. As there is some evidence that aerial agricultural applications may be occasionally conducted in the area, farmers and relevant organizations will be notified of the Project prior to construction to minimize the risk of an accident.

WestWind is not proposing to operate night time aviation obstacle lighting. However, an assessment of the impacts of lighting has been undertaken should it be recommended by CASA or the planning panel or required through the Minister’s Assessment of the Environmental Effects. The assessment considers aviation hazard lighting to be installed on the nacelles of the wind turbines along the perimeter of the project. Lights used will be medium intensity (2,000 cd) red hazard beacons which will be continuous output (i.e. not blinking) and will only be on for a short time period of around thirty minutes while aircraft are in the vicinity of the Project.

The impact of aviation lighting for townships such as Rokewood has been determined to be minimal due to the existing presence of other sources of lighting including street lights, shop fronts and vehicles. While lighting may be visible from rural dwellings, screenings such as curtains and blinds and landscape mitigation would be sufficient to rectify any disturbance.

EES Objective: To manage potential adverse effects for the community, businesses and land users with regard to construction dust.

The potential construction impacts to air quality include dust and fumes from construction activities such as earthworks, quarrying, concrete batching plants and unsealed access-road use. These potential impacts will be mitigated through dust suppression on unsealed roads, and use of good construction practices and appropriate guidelines typically followed for construction projects of this scale. During operation, the air quality impacts will be limited to dust from infrequent use of the access roads.

The operations of the on-site temporary quarry during construction will be the most concentrated and longest running source of air emissions during construction of the Project. The quarry will operate throughout the projected four-year construction period whereas other components of the Project will involve considerably less excavation over shorter periods.

Based on the assessment, the residual risk to air quality is considered low when mitigation measures are employed. It concluded that the Project is consistent with the EES Objective (community amenity) for air quality as the Project will avoid or minimise adverse impacts on the beneficial uses of the air relating to human health and wellbeing, local amenity and aesthetic enjoyment.

EES Objective:  To minimize and manage potential adverse effects on landscape and visual amenity for the community.

Shadow flicker is the resulting effect of sun position and the rotating blade of the turbine, which will impact the light for people who are within a certain range of the turbines (receptors). Generally, these receptors are split into two categories. There are Hosts who are individuals with an agreement with the wind farm developer to host wind turbines or associated infrastructure on their land. Secondly there are neighbours, known as sensitive receptors. As neighbouring landowners do not have agreements with the wind farm developer, any impact of shadow flicker at these properties is more heavily scrutinised. Under the Victorian Guidelines the maximum allowable shadow flicker for a non-host is 30 hours per year.

The movement of the wind turbine’s shadow across the home, resulting from the low sun position in the sky, demonstrates how shadow flicker may arise.

An analysis of shadow flicker was completed using worst-case scenario assumptions. These assumptions include:

• That sunlight is always unobstructed and there are no clouds;
• The receptor dwelling has no surrounding vegetation;
• That the turbine is always rotating with the rotor oriented perpendicular to the receptor;
• That the receptor will not face any one direction and instead will be influenced by all directions.

In all cases, no non-host dwellings (sensitive receptors) were exposed to greater than 30 hours per year of shadow flicker. As such this means that shadow flicker is unlikely to significantly affect any neighbouring residents of Project
Blade glint refers to when the sunshine is reflected off the blades of the turbine causing bursts of bright light. The risk for this Project is expected to be relatively low when mitigation measures are employed.
These include the industry standard application of a non-reflective coating to the turbine blades, and growing additional vegetation barriers to block the line of sight to wind turbines which may impact a dwelling. These measures will be implemented and will ensure the wind farm operator manages any impact from shadow flicker and blade glint.

Historic Heritage

EES Objective: To avoid or minimize potential adverse effects on historic cultural heritage.

The Project is proposed to be established within a part of the Golden Plains Shire that has been subject to pastoral and agricultural activities since European settlement, as well as gold-mining throughout the middle of the nineteenth-century. Such activities have left historic traces on the landscape within the study area including dry stone walls, cottages, sheds and shepherds’ huts; bridges, remnants of mining activity, cemeteries and/or individual burials, and remnant orchards or gardens.

There are only two listed historical archaeological sites located within the Projects boundary. These include Queen of the Plains, a historical mining site in which 351kg of gold was found and McMillan’s Bridge, constructed in 1865 and an early example of Victorian bridge technology. The effect of the Project has been assessed as having no measurable impact on these sites.

There may be instances where dry stone walls may need to be modified to accommodate gated access to groups of turbine sites, however such instances are likely to be few and the impacts will be mitigated by engaging a stone mason to reconstruct the walls once construction is completed.

Should an unexpected historical heritage site be uncovered, an unexpected finds protocol is in place to protect the site while an assessment of its value will be undertaken by a heritage expert.

Cultural-Heritage

Indigenous Heritage

EES Objective:  Avoid or minimize adverse effects on Aboriginal cultural heritage values (tangible and intangible).

The development of the Project will occur on land that is the traditional lands of the Wadawurrung, Guligad, and Eastern Marr people.

Since European settlement the main activities in the area have been pastoral and agricultural in nature. All landforms containing Aboriginal Places within the activity area have some potential to be impacted by the Project, however two Cultural Heritage Management Plans (CHMPs) one for the wind farm infrastructure and an additional plan for the quarry are being prepared in accordance with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2007.

These plans will contain an assessment of the cultural heritage, significant stakeholder consultation and legally binding management conditions that will be developed with the principal aim of avoiding harm, and where this is not possible, mitigating harm.

A substantial level of field investigation was undertaken in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The results have been used to undertake a risk assessment and inform the EES process which has been used to derive management measures that will be agreed upon within the CHMP.

Assessment as part of the wind farm CHMP involved the excavation of:

• 12 hand excavated 1m² test pits;
• 115 2m x 2m machine trenches;
• 50 2m x 1m linear trenches; and
• 389 radial shovel test pits.

Due to the small size of the quarrying activity a testing grid of 30m was implemented across the site. This involved investigations for surface material in addition to radial shovel pits at each of the gridded locations.

It should be noted that unlike many large-scale infrastructure or development projects, wind farms are in a unique position to actually provide long-term cultural heritage protection for large tracts of land. This is because despite the disturbance at the specific locations of turbines and infrastructure, the presence of wind farms eliminates the possibility that the land in which it sits will be subdivided and subject to residential or industrial development works that would affect a much greater percentage of the area.

As per the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2007, two Cultural Heritage Management Plans (CHMPs) are currently being developed in consultation with the following stakeholders:

• Aboriginal Victoria
• Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation
• Guligad Aboriginal Corporation
• Wadawurrung Aboriginal Corporation
• Wathaurung Aboriginal Corporation.

Under the advice from cultural heritage experts, wherever possible Westwind has avoided waterways, sensitive landforms, and relocated or removed extensive turbine and track infrastructure away from areas of cultural sensitivity to avoid and minimise impact.

The outcome of the approach taken by WestWind is that harm will be avoided for the majority (29 of 32 or 90%) of Aboriginal Places located during works for the Project. Of the remaining three Aboriginal Places harm will be minimised by partial salvage works. Of the 159 artefacts that comprise the Projects Low Density Artefacts Distributions (LDADs) only 12 will require surface salvage while the remaining 147 artefacts (92%) will remain undisturbed. For this reason, it is expected that the Project will not result in wholesale loss of any known Aboriginal Places.

The studies undertaken indicated that there are no Aboriginal historical reference places listed on the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register within the study area. However, a risk assessment process was adopted that identified potential construction and decommissioning hazards, impact pathways, the consequences to Aboriginal cultural heritage values and the likelihood of impacts. Based on the information collected and analysis of the extensive site surveys completed to date, the residual risk to Aboriginal cultural heritage values across the Project area is considered to be very low to medium after mitigation measures have been employed. These risks will be managed through the implementation of the CHMPs as required under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, and in doing so, satisfy the EES objective to avoid and minimize adverse effects on Aboriginal cultural heritage values.

EES Objective: To manage potential adverse effects on traffic and transport for the community, businesses and land uses.

The Project site is proposed to be situated on land that is bound by Pitfield-Cressy Road to the west, Ledwells Road and Cressy-Shelford Road in the south, Wingeel Road in the east and Rokewood-Skipton/Rokewood-Shelford Road in the north. The only arterial road bisecting the site is the Colac-Ballarat Road.

The main impacts during the construction phase of the project will be traffic associated with construction. Decommissioning tasks will also present traffic issues over the decommissioning period. Using transport modelling, it was determined that the existing road network has sufficient capacity to accommodate the estimated traffic demands for peak construction and the first year of decommissioning – the years which are expected to experience the greatest amount of traffic and project-related activity.  Once the Project commences operation, there is estimated to be approximately 35 one-way daily trips conducted by a workforce of 25 to 30 staff to carry out maintenance tasks. Most of these will take place on internal access roads and is not expected to materially affect traffic on public roads.

The performance measure for road links is the Level of Service (LoS). In rural areas, a LoS rating of “C” can be considered a minimum desirable standard. All roads in the Project network at present have a LoS rating of “A”.

Over-Dimensional Truck Routes

Wind turbines are large structures which require complicated logistics to transport and install. Blades in the order of 75 metres in length are required to be transported to the wind farm site, as well as large power transformers and other construction-related materials. Transporting these materials, particularly turbine blades, requires very large trucks. In order to minimise disturbance to the communities around the wind farm during construction, the proposed routes of these over-dimensional trucks will be announced ahead of time. Shown below are two alternate routes being proposed for the transport of turbine blades from the Port of Geelong to the Golden Plains Wind Farm site.

Over-Dimensional Truck Route - Proposal 1

Alternate Route 1 - Route to Site (Geelong North)

Over-Dimensional Truck Route - Proposal 2

Alternative OD Route 2 - Route to Site (Geelong South)

Construction traffic

A significant amount of additional traffic movement is expected to be generated on the nominated road network during the construction phase of the Project. The main generators of construction traffic are the delivery of materials, equipment, turbine components, as well as a large construction workforce travelling regularly to and from the site.

Results from the modelling indicate that whilst there will be an increase in traffic during peak hour periods, particularly on arterial roads and roads where key site infrastructure is located, the performance of the roads carrying project-related construction traffic will generally remain unchanged (i.e. the LoS rating will remain at ‘A’).

Effect on school bus routes

Six bus routes operate within the arterial and local roads to service at least 3 schools surrounding the Project site, which include Rokewood Primary, Shelford Primary and Beeac Primary.
Before development begins, local and regional schools will be consulted for current bus timetables on the relevant construction traffic routes. Suitable windows of inactivity (curfew times) will be arranged in agreement with relevant schools and Councils, which applies to both Heavy Vehicles and Over-dimensional deliveries.
School bus routes will be reviewed at the beginning of each school term in consultation with the local and regional schools and Councils.

Effect on annual harvest period

Typically, the annual harvest period for the Golden Plains area will commence at the start of November and run through until the end of February, with the peak harvest period occurring between December and January. The effect of construction and development on the roads in this period will be monitored, however it is not expected to be significant.

EES Objective: To manage potential adverse effects and benefits for the community, businesses and associated land uses.

WestWind appreciates that community engagement goes well beyond the requirements necessary under a planning permit, and our aspiration is to ensure we have a social license to operate for the full life cycle of the project. WestWind has fostered strong working relationships with the community around the Golden Plains Wind Farm. These relationships have been nurtured over many years and will continue throughout the project lifecycle. We appreciate that not everyone will be happy with a large development proposal, however, we have committed to engage extensively with the community throughout all phases of the development.

Our process is designed to ensure ongoing opportunities are provided to listen, inform, consult, involve, collaborate, and empower stakeholders in the community. Our engagement has occurred through the following methods: door knock introductions to neighbours within 5km of the wind farm, face-to-face meetings, four community open days; project update mailouts, and ensuring our website content remains current.

Social-Impact

We have sought feedback and suggestions from various sectors of the community that have helped guide the development of the Project and encouraged people to raise questions, issues and concerns. We value all our interactions with the community and see it as a stepping stone to ensure the Golden Plains Wind Farm is accepted within the local community.  One of the key ways we have responded to community feedback is through the establishment of our community benefit fund and neighbour benefit schemes. To read more about these,  click here

We have been honoured to support the community in many ways, whether through using local businesses and contractors; hiring local facilities; working with local organisations and clubs, or through sponsorship of various community groups including the Rokewood/Corindhap Football Netball Club, Rokewood Primary School, Rokewood Cricket Club, Rokewood Rodeo, Local CFA’s, Rokewood Kindergarten, Rokewood Lagoon, Baronah Park Hall, and the Down Under Extreme Cowboys.

To further support our engagement, an independent social impact assessment was undertaken to identify impacts and benefits to the community during construction, operation and decommissioning of the project. This was required under the EES and the assessment included a study area of the Golden Plains Shire, Rokewood and the community adjacent to the windfarm, including parts of the Colac Otway Shire.

The impact assessment determined issues, impacts and potential management measures that may be associated with the wind farm development. The conclusion from the assessment was that the project is consistent with the EES evaluation objective in that any adverse impacts could be appropriately managed and that the project was likely to have a positive change in the demographics of the study area, support existing community facilities and that the project was largely consistent with community values and aspirations.

Many stakeholders took part in the impact assessment including: project host landholders, neighbours close to the Project site, staff from the Golden Plains Shire and representatives from local community groups and service organisations. Some of the recommendations from the social impact assessment include: continuation of the benefit schemes, implementation of an accommodation strategy for the construction workforce, hiring local employment, and ensuring a robust grievance mechanism is in place. We are committed to responding to these recommendations to ensure minimal impact to the local community.

The social impact assessment concluded that the Project will have numerous positive impacts for the community and is estimated to create 200 local and regional construction jobs during the projects construction phase, and significant financial benefits for the community. In addition, this project has the potential to help retain the existing population of the study area through improving the financial well-being of host and adjoining landholders with the provision of a stable income. In conclusion, the assessment found that the risk for social and community impacts by the wind farm is low.

VP: View Point 3

point-3

Seen from Shelford-Bannockburn Road facing North-West, 2.5km to the nearest wind turbine.

Use the green arrow over the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ image to slide through the before and after shots of the wind farm.

VP: View Point 4

point-4

Seen from Rokewood-Shelford Road at intersection of Shelford-Mount Mercer Road facing West, 8km to the nearest wind turbine.

Use the green arrow over the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ image to slide through the before and after shots of the wind farm.

VP: View Point 13

point-13

Seen from Lismore-Scarsdale Road at intersection of Padgetts Lane facing East, 12.3km to the nearest wind turbine.

Use the green arrow over the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ image to slide through the before and after shots of the wind farm.

VP: View Point 15

point-15

Seen from Hamilton Highway at intersection of Colac-Ballarat Road facing North-East, 7.8km to the nearest wind turbine.

Use the green arrow over the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ image to slide through the before and after shots of the wind farm.

VP: View Point 16

point-16

Seen from Hamilton Highway at intersection of North-Poorneet Road facing North-East, 5.3km to the nearest wind turbine.

Use the green arrow over the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ image to slide through the before and after shots of the wind farm.

VP: View Point 21

point-21

Seen from Barunah Park Hall on Wingeel Road facing North, 2.4km to the nearest wind turbine.

Use the green arrow over the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ image to slide through the before and after shots of the wind farm.

VP: View Point 25

point-25

Seen from Boyles Road facing South, 3.2km to the nearest wind turbine.

Use the green arrow over the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ image to slide through the before and after shots of the wind farm.