The rugged west coast of Tasmania is an ideal place to raise cattle — if you can handle the wind.
For more than half a century, Royce Smith’s family has produced premium grass-fed beef at blustery Granville Harbour.
Along the way Mr Smith has lost three clotheslines to the roaring forties — winds gusting up to 200 kilometres per hour directly off the Southern Ocean.
The persistent wind created the opportunity to diversify the farm in a big way.
Paddocks have been turned into a construction site for a 31-turbine wind farm.
The third-generation farmer said the project has secured the family farm’s future.
“I’ve been able to employ more people and we are improving the property with good fences,” he said.
Mr Smith has spent the better part of the last decade navigating federal and state approval processes to bring the project to fruition.
He has since sold his stake in the operation but owns the land and will receive lease payments.
The $280 million project will generate enough electricity to power 46,000 homes.
The turbines work any time the wind speed is above 18 kilometres per hour.
The wind speed averages 30 kilometres an hour year-round on the west coast of Tasmania.
“It is very windy out here and it’s one of the highest capacity wind farms I’ve worked on as far as how much wind we get and the consistency of that wind.”
The towers will stand 200 metres tall from the base to the tip of the blade.
The rich, red volcanic soils that are so valued for growing lush grass are challenging for such large structures.
“The bases of the turbines require 700 cubic metres of concrete to hold the turbine down and beneath those foundation we have 130 holes to be able to stabilise the ground underneath,” Mr Frearson said.
Mr Smith and the wind farm team was working together to reduce erosion so that the invaluable soil can be retained on farm and fill in steep slopes.
Cattle will eventually graze directly under the turbines, with much of the construction site returned to perennial pastures.
Over $2 billion in wind projects slated for Tasmania
Electricity generated at Granville Harbour will be connected to the Tasmanian network by a new 11-kilometre transmission line joining an existing connection point at hydropower dam, Reece Dam.
State-owned Hydro Tasmania will buy the power and export most of it to the mainland market through an existing undersea cable.
This project is one of two under construction in the state.
Another three projects are also on the cards, bringing the total investment in wind energy to over $2 billion.
Transmission costs limiting factor
“Tasmania is in a good position because we’ve got one of the best wind resources in the world,” said energy analyst, Marc White.
“The question for us is the cost of getting in to the Victorian market.”
A feasibility study is underway into a second interconnector under Bass Strait, estimated to cost between $1.9 billion to $3.1 billion, to enable more power to be exported from Tasmania.
A wind farm proposal of up to 1000 megawatts for the state’s north-west is contingent on this additional infrastructure.
“There’s concerns that a $1 billion wind farm might need a $3 billion interconnector so the economics are really very different.”
The Granville Harbour Wind Farm cost around $10 million to connect to the grid and will begin sending generating power by the end of the year.