25/02/2019 - 14:06

Alinta approves $400m wind farm

25/02/2019 - 14:06

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Alinta Energy has given the green light to the $400 million Yandin wind farm development north of Perth, with the company saying it will dial down production from its gas portfolio to make room for the new capacity.

Alinta approves $400m wind farm
Ken Woolley (left) and Vestas head of sales for Australia and New Zealand Peter Cowling. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Alinta Energy has given the green light to the $400 million Yandin wind farm development north of Perth, with the company saying it will dial down production from its gas portfolio to make room for the new capacity.

Construction of the 214-megawatt wind farm will begin in the middle of this year, with Vestas chosen as engineering, procurement and construction contractor.

It will be located near the town of Dandaragan, with the 51 wind turbine generators expected to be operational by the middle of next year.

Alinta Energy executive director of merchant energy, Ken Woolley, said the generators would be competitive even without government setting a renewable energy target because the wind resource was so strong.

“The region is a terrific wind resource, there will be plenty of affordable, clean, renewable energy,” he said.

"The cost to construct this particular wind farm, coupled with this high-quality wind resource, means it doesn't need a renewables policy sitting over the top of it.”

He said wind power would come in about 20 per cent cheaper than gas on average, although the intermittency made that difficult to quantify.

“The wind is very variable, it doesn't blow when you necessarily want it to blow, so it's a difficult question to answer,” Mr Woolley said.

Both wind and gas would be part of the company’s generation mix for the foreseeable future.

“The output of the wind farm will be used in conjunction with our existing gas fired generation here in Western Australia," Mr Woolley said.

“The renewable output, combined with our existing generation, we’ll be able to optimise the whole supply balance.

“We’ll have renewables coming into our grid, and we’ll be backing off our gas fired generation, which means we’ll be using our gas far more efficiently.”

He highlighted the Pinjarra cogeneration gas facility, which also provides steam to Alcoa, as the most likely unit to have output reduced.

More broadly, a large number of smaller gas turbines in WA are in place to support coal-fired baseload power stations in periods of peak demand.

Some of those units are used only for a few hours every year.

Yandin is one of numerous renewables projects in the pipeline for WA.

In January, APA Group’s Badgingarra wind farm was electrified, with its 130MW supply also provided on an offtake deal to Alinta.

Vestas is currently building Synergy’s Warradarge wind farm, to bring 210MW of capacity into the market by 2020.

That comes after a period where Synergy was shutting down older generators and has been reducing production at coal fired plants during periods of high renewable output.

Mr Woolley said renewables would supplant thermal generation over time.

“As more and more renewables are brought into the market, because of its low cost nature, zero cost wind will always displace something, and here in this market (WA) that’ll be a combination of coal and gas,” he said.

“We’ve got a flexible gas portfolio, we’ll be able to reduce our gas generation to make room for the renewables coming in.”

The rise of renewables would also impact investments in coal generation by other businesses, he said.

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