Hills of Gold - FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

ENGIE is helping to address some of the key concerns people have with regard to biodiversity, environmental and other impacts. To help you tell fact from fiction, we’ve put together a series of frequently asked questions.

Project Design and Development

Download FAQs Factsheet 

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) submitted was for 70 turbines, however during the Response to Submissions assessment process we committed to removing five turbines, reducing the number to 65. The latest amendment, submitted in November 2022, proposes another turbine is removed (to 64). The reduction in turbines is in response to feedback relating to biodiversity and visual impacts. 

  • 4 landholders with full turbines 
  • 4 neighbours that receive benefit from turbines 
  • 4 landholders along the transmission line 
  • 14 transport consents 
  • 4 landholders with biodiversity stewardship agreements
  • 8 landowners offered biodiversity stewardship sites

16 neighbour agreements 

ENGIE and Someva lodged an amendment to the project in November 2022. Following public exhibition of this amendment in December 2022, a Response to Submissions was lodged in February 2023. DPE recommendation is expected in Q3, 2023 with IPC determination expected late 2023. 

At the present time, ENGIE intends to build, own and operate all of its renewable energy assets. 

Traffic and Transport

Given the strong reservations by the Department of Planning and Environment and Tamworth Regional Council about the Devil’s Elbow Bypass, the Project has reassessed access routes for construction vehicles and Over Size, Over Mass (OSOM) vehicles to further reduce impacts.  

The alternate route proposes most of the OSOM and construction traffic uses Crawney Road, and therefore construction of a bypass at Devils Elbow and retaining walls along Morrisons Gap Road would no longer be required.  

OSOM vehicles refer to those transporting the larger components of the wind farm such as the tower segments and the blades. It is envisaged that transportation of this equipment will take a total of around nine months, with up to six vehicles travelling the route each day, six days per week. 

The proposed OSOM route would follow Crawney Road beyond the Pearly Gates Bridge with access to the site from three possible locations off Crawney Road. Further work is continuing with the Registered Aboriginal Parties, Local Lands Services, Crown Lands and construction contractors to determine the most suitable access point.  

To support the new route, we are proposing to seal Crawney Road up to the determined access site (between 2 and 4km) and upgrade the road to be suitable for transport of turbine components, including up to two bridge upgrades. Following construction, the road will be repaired to a better condition than prior to its use by the project.  

Traffic management measures will be put in place to minimise disruption for residents such as a text messaging service to alert when OSOM vehicles are travelling, layby areas to allow for overtaking and avoiding school bus times. Overall, these changes will improve road safety for existing users and construction traffic.  

There will be no impact to Tamworth from OSOM movements. The original OSOM transport route through Tamworth has now been removed from the Development Application to avoid impacting communities and residents in this area.  
We’re currently working with Muswellbrook Shire Council on route options for OSOM movements through Muswellbrook to ensure the least disruption to residents. We have a commitment to ensure all OSOM transport movements avoid school bus hours through Muswellbrook and Nundle.

Local Traffic 

Oversize load routes through Nundle are being assessed with consideration of a route that mostly avoids the main intersection of Oakenville and Jenkins streets by diverting behind the Peel Inn on Herron Street and Innes Street, before entering Jenkins Street. An option for transporting blades is being considered that would loop around Happy Valley Road and back onto Jenkins Street to join Crawney Road. Both options take into account previous concerns raised by the community regarding traffic along Jenkins Street between Oakenville and Innes streets, and protection of the avenue of trees along Oakenville Street on the approach to Nundle. 

In responding to discussions with the local community about increased traffic concerns, we’ve made key changes to our traffic management plan, ensuring a 38% reduction in daily traffic movements through Nundle during the construction period, improving safety and convenience. Some of the key changes will look to utilise car-pooling schemes by creating a temporary car park in Nundle to reduce the number of vehicles travelling to the project site each day. We will (subject to Council approval) install an additional pedestrian crossing in Nundle and employ parking restrictions in the town for project vehicles. We also have a commitment to ensure all Over Size, Over Mass (OSOM) transport movements avoid school bus hours through the town. 

The previously considered route via Barry Road and Morrison’s Gap Road is still proposed for the majority of construction traffic and could be used for returning empty or packed down wind turbine component transport vehicles. Minor road works within the road reserve of the existing Devils Elbow and Morrisons Gap Road is proposed to improve road safety for these traffic movements.  

Native Vegetation 

Leading industry consultants, Biosis, have assessed that the Project is unlikely to cause serious or irreversible impacts to the threatened species and threatened ecological communities (as defined by the NSW State Biodiversity Offset Guidelines). ​ 

Protection of biodiversity and native animals will be governed by environmental management plans that must be prepared and implemented by specialists and approved by DPE prior to construction commencing.​ Protection measures include: ​ 

  • Extensive mapping and understanding of native flora and fauna. ​ 
  • Pre-clearing protocols including inspections, exclusion zones and ongoing monitoring.​ 
  • Spotting and handling program to ensure relocation of any animals found during construction.​ 
  • Rehabilitation of all temporarily disturbed areas. ​ 
  • Development of Biodiversity Stewardship sites through agreements with three neighbouring landowners for 1,426 ha. 
  • Investigating potential for wildlife corridors between Wallabadah Nature Reserve, Crawney National Park and Ben Halls Gap Nature Reserve. 

 

We share the community’s concern about impacts to native vegetation and habitats of native wildlife and have engaged industry leading consultants to conduct biodiversity studies. Studies conducted over two years confirmed there will be no serious or irreversible biodiversity impacts from the Project.  

These studies were able to identify only two koalas during the extensive surveys carried out between 2018 and 2020, and that despite significant loss of habitat during the 2019/20 bushfires, there remains suitable habitat in neighbouring properties and over 3,000 ha in nearby nature reserves. Despite this, we have committed to a spotting and handling program to ensure any animals found prior to and during construction are relocated to high condition habitat in adjoining properties.  

In the November 2022 Project Amendment, one turbine was removed and an additional 20 turbines were relocated to avoid potential impact to habitat during the operation of the Project. The removal of the turbine creates a 1.2km wildlife corridor, significantly reducing any potential collision risk to birds and bats. A change to the turbine height and reduction in proposed blade size has increased the distance from treetops to moving turbine parts. 20 turbines were relocated to increase the distance to native vegetation and potential habitat. As a result of these relocations and further operational commitments, all turbines have been reduced to ‘low risk of impact’. In addition, we are progressing with developing Biodiversity Stewardship sites, which will create wildlife corridors between existing National Parks. 

All mitigation measures to protect biodiversity and native animals will be governed by environmental management plans that must be prepared and implemented by specialists, and approved by DPE, should the project receive development approval. 

 

Following further surveys and assessment of bat-roosting habitat, we have an increased understanding of the presence of bats onsite. Through additional design work and the removal of wind turbines 19 and 23, we have reduced the number of wind turbines within bat-roosting habitat buffers from nine to two. We have also been undertaking further geomorphological assessment of caves and karsts to confirm their location in relation to the project site. We have further increased bat habitat mapping, which has resulted in refined identification of roosting habitat. 

Further analysis was undertaken of the bat activity and the times of the year and environmental conditions where bats are more likely to be active. It was seen that in higher wind conditions and temperatures, bats are less active. A “smart curtailment” program has been committed which will require the turbines to be turned off during times of higher bat activity. This has been well received by industry experts and government agencies and will be designed into management plans required to be implemented during construction and operation.  

All mitigation measures to protect biodiversity and native animals will be governed by environmental management plans that must be prepared and implemented by specialists, and approved by DPE, should the Project receive development approval. 

Water

We assessed the project’s impact on Peel Valley Catchment in our original Soils and Water Assessment, as part of our EIS. However, we are now currently undertaking further investigations. The details of our latest study of impacts on the Peel Valley Catchment will be available in an updated Soils and Water Assessment Report in our Response to Submissions, however it is important to note Water NSW’s response to the EIS raised no concerns about impact on the catchment. 

It is likely that springs will be intersected during the construction period, as this is common in infrastructure projects. Suitable mitigation measures will be implemented if and when this occurs. 

To ensure that flows from the up-gradient catchment, including rainfall runoff or any identified springs, reach down-gradient watercourses and the Peel River, options including drainage rock blankets installed for seepage and culverts installed at key watercourse crossing points will be confirmed at the detailed design phase. 

It is estimated that around 55ML of water will be required during the two-year construction phase of the wind farm. This water will be used to facilitate the construction of access tracks, concrete foundations, dust suppression and cleaning of the wind turbine components before erection. 

There are currently four viable options available to source that water, including: 

  • Council water supply, with agreement from Council 
  • Extraction from a nearby existing landowner bore, with agreement from landowner 
  • Extraction from a new groundwater bore (once approval is sought) 
  • Extraction from a surface water source (Peel River) 

The options will be reviewed by DPE, with the project contractor then determining the best source based on the approved options. 

End of project life and decommissioning 

Decommissioning is always the responsibility of the wind farm owner. ENGIE will be required to remove all turbines and other fittings as part of the Government’s approval conditions and landowner agreements.  

As part of standard approval conditions, a decommissioning plan will be required to be submitted to the Department for approval before construction of the wind farm can commence.  

The Clean Energy Council currently has a working group to manage re-use of materials at the wind farm end of life. A large proportion of wind farm components can be recycled for other uses.  

Alternatively, if a business case arises near the end of life to ‘repower’ and extend the project, a new approval process would be initiated. 

Nearer to the end of project life the community will be consulted about the process of decommissioning, its steps and potential impacts. 

Community 

ENGIE is committed to supporting the local communities that host our projects. In response to feedback received by the local councils, we are committed to allocating $3,000 per wind turbine per year during operations to the Community Enhancement Fund (CEF) for Tamworth Regional Council and Upper Hunter Shire Council (funding shared between councils based on which Local Government Area wind turbines are located).  

While there has been a reduction in the number of wind turbines, from 70 to 64, at this point in time the funds will be contributed annually based on 70 turbines. If further changes are made to the project layout or total number of turbines, then ENGIE will reassess its total contribution to the CEF.  

In addition to the CEF, we are also committing a one-off sponsorship fund of $150,000 to support community initiatives during construction, which will be administered by the Project. The Project will also be making additional commitments, including pedestrian crossings within Nundle (subject to council approval), traffic reduction schemes and implementation of voluntary speed limits.  

We have also launched a Community Information Hub in Nundle, which provides an accessible location for the team to meet with members of the community and provide a variety of information displays and project factsheets. The Hub is open weekly on Fridays from 9am to 3pm.  

In co-operation with our retail business Simply Energy, we are committed to launching special offers and campaigns for local residents which we aim to provide upon operation of the Hills of Gold Wind Farm.

A CEF committee will be formulated that will have local Council representation, voluntary community members and an independent Chair. The way the funds will be disseminated within the community will be established once the committee has been formulated. 

 

ENGIE is committed to working within the local townships of Nundle and Hanging Rock during construction to ensure that impact is minimised as much as possible. The purpose of the Construction Sponsorship Fund is to provide benefits to the local community that would be advantageous to both individuals and groups within the area. This may include sports sponsorships, community gardens, enhancement to local areas, scholarships, and local community events. We would welcome any suggestions that the community may have to assist with identifying opportunities.  

Local Economy, Business and Tourism  

ENGIE’s Hills of Gold Wind Farm project will bring a number of economic benefits to the region. During the construction phase, it is expected there will be 211 direct jobs and 404 indirect jobs. Once operational, the wind farm will provide up to 16 local jobs and a total of 28 operational jobs, as well as opportunities to develop new skills in the region within the growing renewable energy industry. 

The construction and operation of the wind farm will require a range of skills including engineering, trades (electrical, mechanical, construction), transport, building material providers, equipment operators, consultants and administrative staff. ENGIE will encourage all contractors to employ local people where possible. Through the upgrade of local roads and waterway crossings, during the construction and operational life of the Project, there will be investment and financial contributions of $104 million, through wages and profit to local communities and services. 

A number of studies have been undertaken both within Australia and overseas, into the impact of wind farms on nearby property values. 

In 2016, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage commissioned a report into the impact of wind farms on property values. The report concluded that across the case studies reviewed in NSW and VIC, there was no evidence of negative impacts on property values. Furthermore, the resale values of all the properties examined in the report experienced capital growth in line with the property market trends. A full copy of the report is available here. 

In another study completed in 2013, national property consultants Preston Rowe Paterson conducted an assessment of the impact of wind farms on surrounding land values in Australia, and similarly concluded that there was no ‘quantifiable effect on land values’. The full report can be found here. 

It is important to note, many factors influence land and property prices. Supply and demand, proximity to amenities and infrastructure, housing affordability and the desirability of the location can all have an impact. 

We expect a number of skills and suppliers to be required by our main contractor during the construction phase of the Project which include: 

Skills 

Earthworks plant operator 

Labourers 

Mechanical and electrical engineers/fitters 

Cementers and grouters 

Building contractors 

Heavy vehicle truck drivers 

Heavy machinery operators 

Pipelayers 

Welding and engineering 

Suppliers 

Mechanics and maintenance 

Cleaners 

Accommodation 

Catering services 

Equipment hire 

Fencers 

Freight 

Waste management 

Administration 

If you’re interested in finding out more about future employment opportunities, please contact the team on 1800 845 067 or email.

During the construction phase of the Project, it is envisaged that a number of local businesses will experience an increase in sales as the onsite workforce purchase everyday items such as food, drinks, petrol and other groceries. There will also be a demand for increased accommodation in the area. This will include long term accommodation requirements, particularly during the two-year construction period. 

Once the transition to operation occurs, the onsite workforce of up to 16 people may provide a modest boost to ongoing sales of these grocery items. 

Local community benefits can include: 

  • Boost to the local and regional economy and local businesses 
  • Jobs during construction and operation 
  • Training, skills development and education programs 
  • Community Enhancement Fund 

ENGIE undertook a survey in August 2021 to gauge project sentiment amongst business owners who will have a direct impact from traffic movements associated with the Project. The survey was sent to known businesses with a shopfront or that are home-based in both Nundle and Hanging Rock. The survey was also used to gain feedback on a number of proposed traffic management strategies.   

A total of 55 responses were received showing that 67% of local business owners with a shopfront are in favour of the Project. Of those that support the project, more than 90% believe the Project will bring economic benefits to their business, with majority citing increased revenue and increased customers as the biggest benefits. 

In addition, 75% of the supportive business owners believe ENGIE’s project will strengthen the region’s existing tourism market. 

The Nundle region is already a popular tourist destination, reliant on the area’s rich gold mining history and natural beauty. Our aim is to ensure that the Hills of Gold Wind Farm can co-exist with and complement the existing heritage and natural elements of the Nundle region. 

As part of further investigations into the proposed development’s impact on tourism, the University of Newcastle was engaged to compile a report on wind energy and tourism. 

The desktop study looked into the benefits and opportunities of wind farm tourism, concluding that ‘there is very little academic evidence that the presence of wind farms has a significant negative economic impact on the tourism industry in rural localities,’ (Dr Barrie Shannon, 2021). 

It also stated that ‘adventure tourism, eco-tourism and educational tourism incorporating wind farm infrastructure are emerging globally as key opportunities for rural localities,’ (Dr Barrie Shannon, 2021). You can access the full report on the Resources page of our website. 

We believe the Hills of Gold Wind Farm will boost local tourism and bring additional visitors to the area by appealing to different markets. There are several examples of wind farm tourism in Australia and around the world, with many wind farms listed as tourist destinations in their own right. 

There are many benefits to businesses located near wind farms, including using turbines in advertising and imagery. There are also several wind farms that host bus tours for visitors and school groups, which is something that will be considered for the Hills of Gold Wind Farm. 

Subscribe for our latest updates

Join our mailing list to receive the latest updates about Hills of Gold Wind Farm.

Contact us

Fill in the form to get in touch with the Hills of Gold team.
Your details
By submitting this form, you agree we may collect, maintain, use and disclose your personal information in accordance with our Privacy Policy