Thursday, November 05, 2020

Coopers Gap Windfarm hit by major problems due to turbine damage and generator replacements

A South Burnett Times investigation has uncovered multimillion-dollar issues at Australia’s largest wind farm project, including the need to repair almost half of the Coopers Gap project

IT‘S billed as one of Australia’s biggest renewable projects, but the South Burnett Times can reveal just six months since the installation of the final turbine, operators are already working to replace critical components in nearly half of the major windfarm’s generators.

Coopers Gap Windfarm, a nearly $1 billion investment in future energy security, was completed just months ago, but already major issues have appeared.

In April, the final blade was installed on the last of the 123 wind turbines at the Darling Downs site, 50km from Kingaroy, which is estimated to have cost $850 million to develop.

But an anonymous source has revealed to NewsCorp that the commissioning process in recent months uncovered multimillion-dollar mechanical issues that have forced operator AGL and construction partners GE CATCON to begin major overhaul works – including replacing an entire turbine.

An AGL spokeswoman confirmed to the South Burnett Times major faults were found by General Electric during testing. “During the commissioning process, rigorous tests were carried out to ensure the long-term operational capability and reliability of each component,” the spokeswoman said.

“However, recent testing by GE has identified that one of their wind turbines will need to be replaced. An exclusion zone has been erected around the turbine to ensure safety.”

The Times was told by the well-placed source that one of the turbine‘s blades – the largest ever transported in Australia, measuring 67m long and weighing 22 tonnes – may be at risk of becoming separated from the turbine.

The source also said “about 50” generators needed to be replaced and there were major component issues just months after the wind farm finished construction.

Both GE and AGL refused to confirm or deny the claim about the turbine blade when contacted, however GE did confirm 53 generators will need to be replaced, due to a single component which the multinational corporation believed could impact the generators’ long-term reliability.

The generators are situated at the base of the site’s turbines – one per turbine – with the remaining 70 generators not requiring the same work to be completed.

“To ensure reliability over the longer term, we are also proactively replacing a component in some of the turbines,” a GE spokesman said. “We have already commenced planning for a repair program conducted in phases to minimise disruption.”

When questioned as to what had occurred that required an entire turbine to be replaced rather than simply repaired, GE did not directly address the question – with the spokesman issuing a statement that mirrored AGL’s own response.

“During GE’s routine inspection and testing, it was identified that one of the turbines will need to be replaced,” he said. “This turbine has been taken out of service while the Coopers Gap project continues to remain operational.”

The South Burnett Times understands engineers are working to determine what caused the serious issue discovered during testing – however the nature of this issue remains unclear.

The Times has been told the 400m exclusion zone around the turbine is standard practice and there is no “imminent risk” of an accident at the site. As the public cannot access the wind farm site where the turbine is located, there is no risk to the public.

Neither AGL nor GE responded to questions regarding the time frame or cost of these major repairs.

Intelligence Committee to focus on higher education and research sector security

This is about China

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has received a letter from the Minister for Home Affairs agreeing to its suggested Terms of Reference for an inquiry into National Security Risks affecting the Australian higher education and research sector with a requested reporting date of July 2021.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (the Committee) will inquire into and report on national security risks affecting the Australian higher education and research sector.

In considering national security risks to the Sector the Committee specifically seeks information on:

A. The prevalence, characteristics and significance of foreign interference, undisclosed foreign influence, data theft and espionage, and associated risks to Australia’s national security;

B. The Sector’s awareness of foreign interference, undisclosed foreign influence, data theft and espionage, and its capacity to identify and respond to these threats;

C. The adequacy and effectiveness of Australian Government policies and programs in identifying and responding to foreign interference, undisclosed foreign influence, data theft and espionage in the Sector;

D. Responses to this issue in other countries and their relevance to the Australian situation; and

E. Any other related matter.

A full terms of reference are available online here

The Chair, Mr Andrew Hastie MP, said “We are going to examine the question of foreign interference in the Australian higher education and research sector. The Committee will engage with a wide variety of stakeholders in this sector as well as appropriate national security agencies.”

Australian exporters to China face $6 billion 'D-Day'

It's utterly stupid to antagonize China

Australian exporters to China are facing a $6 billion cliff after unconfirmed instructions from Chinese customs authorities threatened to ban Australian wine, copper, barley, coal, sugar, timber and lobster from Friday.

The notice, distributed by a customs clearance agent on Tuesday, has not been confirmed by the Chinese government, but its publication was enough to send shares in ASX-listed copper miner Sandfire Resources falling by 8 per cent.

Some Australian wine exporters have been notified by Chinese importers that Australian wine will not be cleared through Chinese customs from this Friday onwards. Australia exports $1.2 billion of wine to China each year.

Tony Battaglene, chief executive of wine industry group Australian Grape and Wine, said the message was going right across the industry to exporters of all sizes.

"There’s a very consistent message coming out, which is that Friday is D-day, and it’s not just about wine it’s about a whole lot of products," he said.

“The message that we’re hearing is that as of Friday product will not be cleared through customs. So any product arriving before will be okay, but if it arrives after Friday then you won’t be cleared, and essentially the border will be stopped."

The November 6 deadline, if enforced, will be a major escalation in Australia's trade dispute with China. More than 20 tonnes of live lobster, feared dead, are still stuck on the tarmac in airplanes at Shanghai Pudong airport, where they have been since Friday undergoing tests for elevated metal levels.

Victorian Rock Lobster Association president Markus Nolle said rock lobster fishing businesses were watching nervously for the latest developments in China. Up to 95 per cent of lobsters from Victoria are sent to China.

“People have just come out of a pretty bad time with the COVID restrictions going back to January,” he said. “It hasn’t been a good year. If they don’t have enough certainty to go fishing they’ll have to tie up the boat and do something else to generate an income.”

Queensland timber logs have also been banned after tree-destroying bark beetles were allegedly found in a shipment along with barley from Emerald Grain Australia. The claims have been strongly denied by Australian exporters.

The trade dispute followed Australia's push for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus in April but has continued to intensify after Beijing imposed new national security laws on Hong Kong and advanced its territorial claims on the South China Sea.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has denied it is ratcheting up economic pressure to win diplomatic concessions.

Australian trade officials were on Tuesday afternoon examining the authenticity of the instructions relayed in the customs notice, as concerns grow it may be self-fulfilling and encourage importers to diversify away from Australian products.

Senator Birmingham said on Tuesday the numerous reports of difficulties that different Australian exports are facing on entry into China are of concern.

"Whilst we shouldn’t jump to conclusions, we are working closely with the various industries who have been the subject of these reports," he said.

Senator Birmingham has urged Australian companies dependent on China to broaden their markets to account for "unpredictable administrative decisions that have been made at the Chinese end". He has threatened to take China to the World Trade Organisation over the infringements.

Premier’s about-face on euthanasia is pure politics

There is only one word needed to explain why a risk-averse Premier like Annastacia Palaszczuk would bring voluntary assisted dying into the election fray just a few weeks out from polling day – Currumbin.

Instead of waiting for the Law Reform Commission to bring down its report into euthanasia in March next year, a re-elected Palaszczuk Government will fast-track laws to the February sitting of parliament.

Here’s the politics. Former Liberal Cabinet Minister Jann Stuckey’s husband, Richard, a doctor, is running as an independent in his wife’s former seat of Currumbin.

Dr Stuckey has said he will preference the Labor Party before the LNP – even though his wife was a former LNP Cabinet Minister – because it has a clear and concise policy around Voluntary Assisted Dying, which he supports. That policy position was made clear by the Premier at the Labor launch.

There is a belief within Labor circles that candidate, Kaylee Campradt, can upset Ms Gerber off the back of Dr Stuckey’s preferences.

But not everybody in the Labor Party is happy with Ms Palaszczuk’s backflip on her commitment to the churches that she wouldn’t bring forward the legislation until the Law Reform Commission had brought down its report.

NSW Upper House MP Greg Donnelly, who has been in Parliament for 15 years, posted online on Friday that Ms Palaszczuk’s decision to bring VAD into the election campaign was “utterly reprehensible’’.

“Deliberations over proposed laws to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia for legislators are as serious as it gets ,’’ he said. “Using such issues to try to secure some base political advantage should be beyond the pale.’’




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