12 March, 2014

The winds of change

After a recent discussion with some of the locals, I was made aware of the Mount Mercer Wind Farm and of its proximity to the Leigh River so of course I headed off to take some photos for a blog post!
As I headed across country towards Rokewood, I had my first glimpse of the turbines turning in the distance.

Wind turbines at the Mount Mercer Wind Farm
Every now and then, as I made my way north via the scenic route, I caught sight of those huge, white towers, lined up like rows of three-petaled flowers atop Mount Mercer. En masse they are quite an impressive sight but up close, they are even more striking with each tower measuring 126 metres.

Turbines in action
I took photos from various different points, distances and angles. The above shot was probably the closest I got and whilst I could hear the hum as it turned, it was not particularly loud. It certainly did not seem to bother the cows grazing nearby. This and other windmills close by were functioning, however not all of the projected sixty-four turbines are operational as yet. My sources inform me that about half are currently in use and the rest it seems are being progressively brought online starting from November, 2013.
Construction equipment and the pieces of a turbine on the ground waiting
to be installed
Once completed, it is projected that the wind farm will produce enough electricity annually to power about 100,000 households - or to put it another way, the entire city of Ballarat. It will also prevent the emission of 510,000 tonnes of  carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The following recent article in the Ballarat Courier gives more details.
The power, once generated, is collected from each tower via an underground network and then transferred to a "switchyard facility" before being carried by an above-ground 132kV line to a substation about 4km north of the township of Elaine, where the voltage is stepped up and the electricity enters the national grid.
132kV lines carrying power to the Elaine substation
In total, the wind farm covers 2,600 hectares of farmland belonging to seven farmers who were offered $7,000 per annum per turbine on their land.
Such a project however is not without its critics and the surrounding community would seem to be divided between those in favour and those against. Arrangements had to be individually negotiated with each landholder whose land the line would cross and where approval was not granted, the line was forced to detour, giving it - I'm told - a somewhat irregular appearance.
Also somewhat incongruous was the image below which I snapped on the Shelford-Mount Mercer Road. The times are certainly changing!
The old and the new
The only thing I did not manage to spot as I zipped along various country roads looking to see the turbines at their best angle (and the most relevant part of this post), was the point at which the line carrying the power from the turbines crosses the Leigh River.

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