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Q&A with the DCCEEW

Couldn't get down to one of the 'Community Consultation Sessions'? Perhaps you didn't even know they were happening.

Local Illawarra resident Katrina went along and asked the questions we all need to be asking. Here is what the DCCEEW told her -  copied verbatim from her post in the 'Thirroul Living' Facebook group. NB: Katrina is not associated with this website. 

We invite the DCCEEW or the press to respond and provide further clarifiation on any of the below important questions as well as those listed on our 'Tell us why?' page.

Hi thanks for the respectful discussions so far on the wind farm. I took questions from the Bulli woonona community page with me to last night’s community consult with the govt. and thought I’d share with the Thirroul community too (admin pls delete if not allowed)

Edit: my apologies there seems to be an issue with the commenting function even though I havent disabled comments. Any suggestions for a fix welcome (I may have broken facebook with my long post (?))

I spoke to a representative from the Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. The member for Cunningham was also present. Here are the questions and answers (yep it’s long and sorry if I missed anyone’s question)

Q: will we be able to see the turbines?

A: yes. The turbines are 280m tall. See the simulation on the screen. They will be 10klm from shore

Q: and that is from sea level. Can you tell me how visibility will increase for each meter above sea level?

A: it will increase but I don’t have that calculation and we haven’t modelled it


Q: what will be the effect on the surf?

A: this is unknown. It will be up to the developer to submit a feasibility statement to determine effects like these

Q: who is the developer?

A: this will go out to tender

Q: who will regulate the developer?

A: the acronym is NOPSEMA. The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA)

Q: are they the people who regulate ocean oil rigs etc?

A: yes

Q: what will be the effect on recreational and commercial fishing?

A: the developer will need to consult with users of the area in order to co-exist

Q: but will there be an exclusion zone around each turbine?

A: yes, 400m

Q: how will this be policed?

A: NOPSEMA inspectors will have the resource to patrol

Q: how will fisho’s know what the zone boundaries are?

A: zones will be demarcated and this will be communicated to people in the same way other rules about fishing are communicated


Q: has there been any consideration of the migratory patterns of whales? Or the safety of migratory and other birds?

A: not yet. This will be up to the developer to discuss in accordance with the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act. We also have an environmental section to our department who are here today.

Q: who administers the Act?

A: the government

Q: could this be a conflict considering the government wants this project to go ahead?

A: no answer

Q: will there be an environmental impact report conducted?

A: yes the developer will need to ensure that this happens


Q: will there be damage to the sea bed?

A: it is up to the developer whether they select fixed or floating turbines or a combination. Floating turbines will cause less need for drilling into the sea floor

Q: but do they need to be anchored to something?

A: yes they are attached to steel ropes and anchored to the sea floor via large concrete blocks that are dropped onto the sea bed

Q: is there any chance of removal of the rope and blocks if turbine is decommissioned?

A: it would be a challenge. And some people think the blocks can create habitat

Q: how will the electricity that is generated be returned to the land?

A: not yet known. The developer will determine this. I think cables will go back to the land. The decision will involve the NSW Government and Energyco (

Q: are they also part of your department?

A: yes


Q: what is the impact of the cables on the environment?

A: this will be up to the developer to ascertain

Q: does that mean there will be a large power grid on the land as part of this project?

A: likely yes

Q: so there are on-land impacts of this project too?

A: yes

Q: I didn’t realise that would be the case. Has the community been made aware of this aspect?

A: I’m not sure


Q: who is the electricity generated by the wind farm being made available to?

A: the electricity will go into the national electricity market.

Q: is it for residents?

A: it will go into the general grid. For commercial purposes too


Q: how much less coal will be mined as a result of this project?

A: we haven’t looked into that. It will add to the grid. I would add that there will be hydrogen hubs and this energy could fuel those

Q: I’ve heard that Grimsby in the UK are paying double for their windfarm electricty. How can you reconcile the cost to the people and the environment?

A: we don’t know the cost of the electricity at this stage


Q: do you think that this cost/benefit analysis should be done prior to destroying our pristine coastline?

A: no answer

Q: what is the longevity of the turbines?

A: 30-40 years

Q: what happens to the parts that are no longer working?

A: many of the parts are recyclable

Q: that’s great! I wasn’t aware that Australia had windfarm recycling facilities? Where would it go?

A: we don’t have facilities in Australia, it would be shipped offshore. Also technology will improve over time so the turbines become more recyclable.

Q: what if they don’t?

A: no answer


Q: has there been a budget consideration for the decommissioning of expired turbines?

A: yes the developer will need to put aside decommissioning costs.

Q: I’m aware of several government projects that have run out of funding before completion. What happens if the developer goes bust?

A: if they go bust then the cost is passed onto the next developer.

Q: I have heard that there are rusting wind farms off the coast of Spain that don’t work but are too expensive to remove. Are you certain this won’t happen?

A: The regulator will be checking this aspect


Q: how often do the turbines require maintenance?

A: they do require maintenance and this will be up to the developer

Q: would it be subcontracted?

A: possibly

Q: would it be costly

A: we don’t have any figures yet

Q: who is paying for the wind farm and maintenance?

A: the investors

Q: who are the investors?

A: I don’t know

Q: would it be open to international investors?

A: yes but governed by the National Interest act

Q: was this Act sufficient in preventing the sale of some of our ports, large farms and water resources to other countries?

A: no answer


Q: has there been any investigation into potential health considerations for humans? Some people are concerned about noise and vibration interfering with sleep patterns

A: no discussion yet. This will need to be examined by the developer


Q: who made the decision to put this proposal forward for the Illawarra?

A: Minister Chris Bowen.

Q: is he from the Illawarra?

A: no he’s a minister in Fairfield West. He can either the make the decision to declare it goes ahead, doesn’t go ahead, goes ahead with modification, or stipulate that it goes ahead with conditions

Q: what could some of the conditions be?

A: he might suggest that the height of the turbines are lowered.

Q: what height is proposed currently?

A: 280m tall

Q: who is involved to-date?

A: we have consulted with the department of defence who have advised that the proposed zone cannot extend any further south due to the Nowra naval base. Sydney airport is to the north so it can’t be shifted. There are submarine cables from Sydney to the east, as well as the continental shelf that drops 1000 m deep.

Q: so it really can’t be moved?

A: no

Q: who else is involved so far?

A: no one is set in stone yet

Q: but I’ve heard that engineering teams have already been recruited?

A: yes some have

(But in the mean time who is this? …and this?


Q: will there be lights visible at night?

A: yes each turbine will have flashing lights for safety


Q: has there been any consideration of financial impacts on real estate prices if the horizons will be disturbed day and night?

A: this is not up to the government. There have not been any studies into this


Q: how many turbines will be off the Wollongong shores?

A: it is not yet known . The developer determines this. According to the zone there is space for two projects. Each project will have capacity for up to 150 turbines.

Q: so just confirming we would have 300 turbines at 280m tall, each with 400m exclusion zones.

A: yes


Q: there is a ship on the horizon at the moment that is 20-40 m tall and 10.5klm according to ship tracker web site. So this will really be visible?

A: yes


Q: will there be substations too?

A: yes

Q: how many?

A: this is up to the developer

Q: but how many substations would normally be out to sea for this sized project?

A: I don’t know


Q: how much less coal will be burnt as a result of this windfarm?

A: I don’t have those figures

Q: would you think it will be sizeable compared to the emissions from China and India who are on a growth trajectory with their coal use?

A: we don’t have those figures

Q: what will be the impacts on the natural wind cycles and the East Australian Current?

A: this will be part of the environmental reporting to be done by the developer

Q: but what could the report be based on? We dont have data on the impacts on the ocean over the long term as off shore wind farms haven’t been around for that long so how can such a report be informed?

A: you’re right we don’t have that data


Q: what about broader long term ecological and climatological impacts ?

A: again a matter for the developer


Q: can they be moved from being so close to the shore? I’ve heard that in Hornsea UK they’re 38-89 klm away and still visible

A: as I mentioned the boundaries cannot be changed because of the restrictions I mentioned before. But make a submission to the Minister if you are concerned. He may consider reducing the size of the project so it is not so close to shore

A: but Australia’s international waters extend 200 klm from land, is there potentially a better site?

A: there have been 6 sites identified on the coast of Australia. One in the Hunter/Newcastle, one in Wollongong, one off northern Tasmania, the Southern Ocean, and two in WA. Wollongong was chosen because of its high winds and proximity to industry. We flagged starting in Kiama but the defence issue arose

Q: but I’ve lived here for 23 years and I’ve noticed only one really windy period and that’s in aug/sept. What happens for the rest of the time?

A: the ocean winds are different to the land


Q: what about the shipping lanes?

A: we will be consulting with the Maritime services

Q: not done yet?

A: no


Q: so is there any hope for Wollongong?

A: I’m hearing your concerns and all I can say is that you have to make a submission to the minister.

Q: what happens with the submissions? Do they get collated and common themes drawn into a summary for the minister to view?

A: no the minister is presented with every submission.

Q: so he reads every one?

A: he needs to take into account all submissions. We received 1900 submissions from the Hunter and they had the turbines moved further out from shore. We received 3000 submissions from the Southern Ocean


Q: how many submissions from Wollongong so far?

A: I don’t know sorry


Q from govt to me: what do you suggest we do to address the climate issue?

A from me: see that big brown patch on your map in the centre of Australia? That is mostly uninhabitable and unusable land but a tremendous source of potential solar energy. Your government is proposing to disrupt some of the most pristine ocean environment in the world so try and save the environment when we have this vast on-land resource…. It just doesn’t make sense.

Q: what is the process for the development?

A: we are in the community consultation phase. That will close 16 October.

Q: sorry to interrupt but is tonight considered community consult?

A: yes

Q: but there are only a few people here. Do you think this turnout is reflective of the opinions of the Illawarra community? I’ve spoken with people and some don’t seem to know what is happening or that this proposal even exists. What has been the form of communication used to tell people?

A: we use newspaper radio and fliers in letterboxes

Q: do you think that those are forms of communication most used by people today? Could this be extended to online and social media?

A: it’s policy for us to use those methods of communication

Q: yes but while you’re ticking your boxes, that is ineffective communication if the majority still don’t know

A: we have to appease a wide audience including the elderly

Q: when I look around the room I see one elderly person. Most if our elderly people have lived in the region their whole lives. Do you think this is reflective of effective communication to them?

A: no answer

Q: can the submission date be extended

A: no it’s policy that submissions are open for 60 days

Q: but is it possible that the policy is flawed..particularly given we are heading into a referendum and attentions are elsewhere?

A: we opened submissions and then the referendum date was set

Q: again can I ask if it is effective communication or fair to the community to make decisions that could potentially effect our pristine environment forever under these circumstances?

A: all I can suggest is to make your submissions to the minister.


So if you have joined me all the way to the end of this post - firstly thank you. As a disclaimer I am not a politician, I’m not a reporter, have no financial interests in anything, I certainly don’t live in a waterfront mansion worried about my view. I’m just an ordinary mum of 3 kids (4 including hubby) and I have never done anything like this before. But this issue has made me take a stand.

There are various petitions on this, but the most critical response we can make is a submission to the minister. And from what I could tell, the decision has not been made. Now is the time to make your voice heard and make a change (or not - if you’re a supporter then I respect that too)

If you do want to have your say please consider making a submission to the minister. It is a fairly simple and quick process.

If you can't attend a session but you think this needs further attention -  record your questions and concerns via the DCCEEW survey (closes 15 Nov).

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