The 270MW Sapphire windfarm is being developed in New England in northern New South Wales, Australia. Credit: Sapphire Windfarm.
The windfarm will feature 75 Vestas V126 3.45MW wind turbines. Credit: Sapphire Windfarm.
Estimated to cost A$600m ($475.3m), the Sapphire windfarm is expected to be completed by July 2018. Credit: Sapphire Windfarm.

Sapphire windfarm is an onshore wind project being developed in New England in northern New South Wales (NSW), Australia. With an installed capacity of 270MW, it will be the biggest windfarm in NSW.

CWP Renewables is developing the windfarm through its asset management division, with an estimated investment of $600m ($475.3m). Financial closure for the project was achieved in December 2016 and construction works were started in January 2017. The windfarm construction is expected to be completed by July 2018.

Saaphire is the fifth windfarm approved under the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) second auction for wind energy. The project is expected to help the Australian Government achieve its 90% renewable energy target by 2020, as well as meet the COP21 emissions target reduction of 26%-28% by 2030 and support New South Wales’ climate change policy.

The project is expected to generate sufficient clean energy to power 115,000 homes, while offsetting more than 700,000t of carbon emissions a year. It is also anticipated to create up to 180 jobs.

Sapphire windfarm location

The windfarm is being developed 18km west of Glen Innes and 28km east of Inverell in NSW.

Extending across 8,921ha of land, the project site is located within the Inverell Shire Council and Glen Innes Severn Council Areas.

Sapphire windfarm make-up

The project will feature 75 Vestas V126 3.45MW wind turbine generators. Each turbine will have a rotor diameter of 126m and a hub height of 3.8m.

The Vestas turbines will feature SCADA VestasOnline Business system for effective monitoring and preventive maintenance.

A 170MW hybrid solar and battery power facility is also proposed to be developed at the site. Once completed, the project will be Australia’s biggest hybrid renewable energy project, which will connect wind and solar generation with battery storage.

Sapphire windfarm construction

The first turbine foundation was laid in April 2017 and the turbine erection works commenced in October 2017, followed by commissioning in December 2017.

“The project is expected to generate sufficient clean energy to power 115,000 homes, while offsetting more than 700,000t of carbon emissions a year.”

Major construction activities include site excavation, construction of wind turbine foundations, installation of electrical cabling and wind turbines, as well as the construction of site compounds.

The turbine foundation will be excavated to a depth of approximately 4.5m below surface, while the base of excavation will be 25m in diameter. The turbine bases will be built using 50,000m³ of concrete and 4,250t of reinforcement.

The works also include modernisation of the Gywdir Highway intersection, Waterloo Road upgradation and new causeway works, as well as construction of 47km of new internal roads.

Financing of Sapphire windfarm

Funding for the windfarm is being provided through a combination of debt and equity.

Partners Group, on behalf of its clients, has invested A$250m ($187m) in the windfarm. The company has contributed the majority of the equity funding for the project, while CWP Renewables has provided the remaining equity.

Debt financing is being provided by a group of lenders, including Denmark’s export credit agency EKF, Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC).

Power transmission

Power generated by the windfarm will flow to a new 330kV substation, before being transmitted to the national grid through a new 330kV overhead line.

The substation will be owned and operated by Transgrid.

Power purchase agreement

CWP Renewables entered a 20-year power purchase agreement with the ACT Government to supply 100MW of electricity produced by the windfarm. The remaining 170MW will be supplied either to the ACT Government or sold in the market.

Contractors involved

The VEZ consortium comprising Vestas and Zenviron was awarded the contract for the construction of the windfarm.

Vestas is responsible for the supply and installation of the wind turbines in addition to providing Active Output Management 4000 (AOM4000) service for the turbines for a minimum period of ten years, while Zenviron is undertaking the civil and electrical works of the windfarm.

Whittens Group was contracted to construct the turbine bases of the windfarm.