Wind in the Willogoleches

An incredible wind resource and progressive state-government policies sowed the seeds of South Australia’s renewable-energy bonanza. Now GE’s latest wind turbine, a new wind farm and a fresh take on a power partnership are redrawing the lines of productivity for renewable energy on the edge of the Flinders Ranges.

Willogoleche Wind Farm, named after the hill at its heart, rises some 160km north of Adelaide, and five kilometres west of the small town of Hallett. The original proposal for a 26-turbine, 78-megawatt development on largely pastoral lands received initial consent in 2004 and you could say that good things come to those who persist. The redesigned and approved $250 million, 32-turbine wind farm announced this week by Engie, the largest energy producer in the world, will produce 119 MW, or enough energy to power the equivalent of 80,000 homes.

3MW turbine
GE’s most advanced 3 MW platform turbines, which will be installed at the Willogoleche Wind Farm, are uprated to a capacity of 3.83 MW

“This is a key project for Engie as it tackles the major challenges in the energy transition and moves us towards a decarbonised, decentralised and digitised energy system,” Engie’s acting CEO, Matthew Donaldson, said of the Willogoleche wind project, its second in Australia after the 23-turbine 46 MW Canunda Wind Farm, which became operational in 2005.

Willogoleche is the first Australian renewable-energy project on which Engie has partnered with GE for the supply and installation of turbines. The great leap in wind farm productivity achieved at Willogoleche is the result of applying GE’s most advanced 3 MW platform—turbines uprated to a capacity of 3.83 MW.

Preconstruction work has begun on the site, and the first of the 85-metre tall towers will be raised in the first quarter of 2018, with completion of the wind farm expected by mid next year.

“We are committed to continuing to bring the best renewables technology to Australia, and are excited to be working with Engie on this project,” says Geoff Culbert, President and CEO of GE Australia, New Zealand & Papua New Guinea. “We’ve seen tremendous momentum in the Australian wind industry this year, thanks to the Renewable Energy Target.”

Over recent years, Engie has shepherded the Willogoleche project through final approval processes and addressed community and environmental concerns. During this time, says Andrew Rayne, commercial director ANZ & ASEAN of GE Renewables, “GE has not only enhanced its technical solution for the project to the latest, up-rated version of our 3 MW platform, but we’ve extensively optimised the layout and configuration of the turbines on the site, to maximise turbine yield. This fulfils GE’s and Engie’s primary goal—to lower the cost of energy produced.”

It also boosts productivity of these lands which are close to Goyder’s Line: in 1865, South Australia’s surveyor general, George Goyder drew an east-west line through the state according to observations of rainfall and terrain, separating arable agricultural land from marginal land suited to grazing. A couple of years ago it was observed that climate change was causing Goyder’s remarkably accurate line to creep southward. As countries and businesses move toward more sustainable practices, wind farms can bring income to marginal landholdings such as those around Hallett and help turn the tide on carbon emissions.

Since entering the Australian market in 1996, Engie has pursued a business model of responsible growth, including: sustainable energy production, climate-change mitigation and the rational use of resources. Its recent projects with GE include the upgrade of Loy Yang B power station in Victoria to increase capacity while reducing coal consumption by about 5% for every megawatt generated.

The two companies share a commitment to boosting efficiencies across the energy-generation spectrum while continually shifting the balance of power towards clean sources. Says Culbert, “This is our fourth wind farm to begin construction in Australia this year, and brings the number of GE turbines either operating or in projects under construction in Australia to 300. That’s a capability to power more than half a million homes or the equivalent across businesses and industry.”

As a digital-industrial leader, GE is focused on optimising individual turbine and whole-wind-farm efficiencies through applications of digital analysis. Donaldson says, “It’s great to be working with GE, a company with a similar mindset, where digital is at the heart of everything it does. It helps to ensure our energy solutions are future-proofed, and that our customers enjoy the most cost-effective energy supply. ”

Offtake of energy from the wind farm is secured by a power-purchase agreement with Engie’s retail business Simply Energy, which has more than 80,000 customers in South Australia who stand to benefit from continued clean and ever more efficient energy production.

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