Cherry Tree Windfarm site visit

Principle 4: Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

Infigen development manger Laura Dunphy (left) with BEAM committee members Peter Mitchell and Richard Telford. Photo: Lesley Dalziel.
The Cherry Tree Wind Farm has moved to the planning stage with the application submitted to council. There's a one month window for community feedback, which officially ends on the 17th of August, but will continue until council makes a decision about it.
The proposed Cherry Tree Wind Farm site is located on the Cherry Tree Range, between Whiteheads Creek and Trawool, approximately 80 km north-east of Melbourne and 15 km south-east of Seymour. Project Site is accessed via Homewood Road. It's a $100 million development, easily the largest in the region.

The proposal includes:

  • Construction of 16 wind turbines with a height of approximately 150 metres (poles height of 100 metres and blade height of 50 metres)
  • Associated infrastructure including a substation, overhead and underground cabling, site office and an operations building
  • Earthworks to allow access to the site
  • Removal of native vegetation to facilitate access and infrastructure on the site
Of particular interest to the BEAM committee, which Peter Mitchell and I represent, is the affect on the existing flora and fauna. It comes in two parts; the impact of the transport to the construction site (maily habitat trees along the route) and the impact on wildlife (mainly birds and bats) at the construction site.

On our first visit we were interested in the route and what vegetation would be impacted. The heaviest item is the Main transformer, with a combined weight of 120 tons, which may present some technical difficulties. The most challenging to the vegetation is the blades which are up to 60m long. That's fine when you travel in a straight line, but runs into issues when you try and turn a corner. The 'sweep' is the space needed for the blade as the vehicle turns.

Up to 96 x 60m long trucks will deliver the blades for the turbines during the early morning hours

The Traffic and Transport Assessment shows the proposed route comes along the Western Ring Road and up the Hume Fwy, turning off at Tallarook. It then follows the Upper Goulburn Road, Goulburn Valley Hwy and on to Kobyboyn Road. All of these roads are sealed and should not present any big challenges. Even the turn into the unsealed Homewood Road should be pretty straight forward (after some rebuilding).
Some significant works will need to be done to the road so that it can cope with the estimated 9000+ traffic movements during the one year construction phase, including 1550 concrete truck runs and 128 tower section deliveries.
The road is fairly straight for the most part and trees along the route should be largely unaffected. There are a number of smaller trees that will need to be removed, but from our visit it appeared that no habitat trees would need to be removed. We have requested that when the engineers assess the road for trees that do need to be removed, that they are marked and that BEAM representatives can view the trees in question before they are felled, to ensure that they are not trees high habitat value or that felling can be avoided.
What we did notice along Homewood Road was a significant amount of fallen timber along the road reserve, which is of high value to ground dwelling creatures. The reserve is largely unfenced on once side and grazed, so there is virtually no understory. We have been told that the roadside would be fenced as part of the development which would help to ensure that the understory can return.

Homewood Road is largely unfenced. Infigen will fence this stretch which will help the understory recover from grazing and protect the habitat logs along the road reserve.
The most difficult section of Homewood Road for the 60m long trucks to navigate at the small creek crosssing, where there is a tight turn. We have suggested that the road is resited through this nearby clearing.
Access road will be resited from this point and continue on to the existing track that can be seen leading up to the ridge, with little impact on vegetation.

On our second visit we arrived at the highest point of the range near the 100m high Meteorlogical Mast. One of the first things that we noticed was a community of five Wedge-tailed Eagles flying nearby. From what we understand the ridge provides habitat to a large number of rabbits, which is a great food source for the birds of prey, probably the reason they were there. The eagles were not within the Rotor Swept Area (RSA) where they could potentially collide, but they were not far away either. We were told that animal carcases would be removed from anwhere near the towers to reduce the attraction for birds of prey, but there was no plan to keep rabbits away from the site. This is an issue that we felt needed to be addressed.
The Flora, Fauna, Habitat Hectare and Net Gain Assessment that was presented to council did not observe many birds of prey, in fact it was one of the lowest recorded rates at wind farms sites investigated in SE Australia - perhaps it was the just time of year? I noted in the report (p54) that "The wedge-tailed Eagle is of potential concern, as it has been found to collide with wind turbines elsewhere." The report also stated that "no eagle nest was detected within the study area, but suitable nesting habitat occurred in the surrounding region, particularly in the Tallrook ranges, which are less than 5km from the wind farm site."
The report states that bird and bat migration seems not to be a major issue for us here in Australia, as it is in Europe and the USA, as most species are nomadic and "the impact of turbine blades on birds appears small, but mortality does occur, keeping in mind that mortality rates are very site specific."

The Wedge-tailed Eagle community let us know that they are living in the area. We saw five of them close to the Meteorogical Mast.

100m tall(?) Meteorogical Mast, about the same height at the wind turbines.
While some vegetation will need to be removed in order to construct the towers, the impact on the exisiting vegetation appears minimal as the land is mostly cleared and heavily grazed. While there are some concerns, that we feel need to be addressed, the overall benefits of the project far outweigh the negative impacts.  Personnaly, I'd much rather have a wind farm nearby than a nuclear power plant / radioactive dump / coal powered power station or Hydraulic Fracking (for natural gas).

Infigen development manager Laura Dunphy and BEAM with Peter Mitchell and Lesley Dalziel viewing turbine sites along the ridge.


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