Teslas converge at Cattle Hill Wind Farm in Central Tasmania
5th March 2022
By Dick Friend
8 fully-charged Hobart members gathered on the road outside GoHo (Government House) and left just after 9am for an hour's convoy to Bothwell.
We were accompanied by new member Mikey who - while waiting for a Model Y delivery to Oz - joined as an Associate two days earlier, and offered to photograph and film proceedings en-route.
For those who can’t read more than a couple of sentences, see https://youtu.be/FUbtbAIKwec
From Bothwell we climbed higher onto the Central Plateau, initially on the Lake Highway, but predominantly on dirt roads through Hermitage before a short steep descent to cross the Ouse River on a ford (the bridge was recently damaged by flood). “Teslas over a Ford” as Mikey put it. After a windy climb we arrived at the entrance to the Cattle Hill Wind Farm, where we were joined by new members, viz:
- 84-yo Eric who (with wife Sue) travelled from the North-West, through Deloraine up the Golden Valley past the Great Lake on its western side, then south to Waddamana
- youngster Troy travelling from Launceston via Poatina and up onto the plateau past the Great Lake on the southern side, and also via Waddamana.
Photo: Troy Robbins
Peter Downie, the landowner of the 10,000 ha Lake Echo summer grazing property, led Eric & Troy and the rest of us 6 kms into and amongst the forest of 48 turbines which form the Cattle Hill wind farm. Seeking to diversify his income from sheep and wool, beef and some cropping, Peter had set about investigating wind farming some 12 years ago. We learnt of the long journey to gain approval in 2018, which, it seemed clear, wouldn’t have happened without the pragmatic and patient approach to planning, and balancing returns and community concerns. He provided candid explanations of how he and his family committed themselves to resolving problems along the way.
Noise is the most read about complaint, and Peter says it is obvious at times within 1 km, but inaudible at 2 km. New blade design with a pronounced curve at the tip reduces the swishing noise as the 70 metre long blades pass by the 100 m tall towers. At Cattle Hill, there is no housing within 20 kms, so no problems there.
Wild orchids endemic to the area have been protected by a Conservation Covenant over an area 10 times the size of the footprint of the wind farm, restricting grazing there to appropriate seasons.
Wedge-tailed eagles are an endangered species in Tasmania, and the Central Highlands are the crucial breeding area. Reducing bird kill has been essential, and monitoring is carried out weekly under each turbine using trained tracker dogs. Even before seeking development approval, Peter began searching for solutions to the problem: the eagles are focussed on the ground and not always looking ahead. He travelled and consulted widely, and found scientists in Boulder, Colorado, with whom he trialled “Identiflight” camera technology (pictured).
Fixed cameras cover 360 degrees and, when birds were seen, we heard the high-res camera whirr around to focus on them. images are sent to Boulder, allowing immediate identification of species (hundreds have been identified). If a collision may possibly occur, blades on the particular tower or towers are feathered to create a turbulence around the tower and, having incredible sensitivity to the small wind changes, the eagles are alerted to the approaching blades. It seems to be working.
Peter has covenants from the wind farm operators who must remove all infrastructure when it closes. Its design life is 25 years; the roading would take longer to recover. Recycling of the blades is now possible; Peter joked about getting cheap water pipes from disused towers!
Peter also answered questions about tree conservation, the explosion of introduced deer populations, the pastoral history since rabbits over-ran the place before myxomatosis, and the involvement of previous owners in those issues. Preferred energy futures for Tasmania were briefly canvassed: more wind (including a project at George Town on which Peter was advising), hydrogen/ammonia production, Marinus Link, decentrailised community grids... all were discussed. Even the topical subject of Lake Pedder, being uncannily similar to Cattle Hill in energy production:
- Cattle Hill has 3 x 50 MW turbines operating at an average 40% of time = 60 MW continuous
- Pedder supplies ~40% of water in Gordon Scheme's 434 MW operating <=37% of time = ~65 MW (in last 10 yrs it has averaged 57 MW continuous).
But we had lunch booked, and when Dick called time, the assembled Teslerati spontaneously applauded Peter for his frank and fascinating exposition of his farming developments (particularly wind).
Photo: Troy Robbins
After meeting Natasha, the Marketing Manager for wind farm operators Goldwind, her 11-yer-old son Cooper hopped in one of the cars on the way to lunch, entertaining us on the way with everything you need to know about Teslas. Troy transported his younger brother (Grade 2 this year) who, unfazed by Cooper’s Cybertruck fascination, was sticking with motorbikes and petrol cars for now. And so we returned to the Ouse River ford, then beside a spectacular winding climb from the dis-continued Waddamana Power Station up bedside the pipeline races which had carried water from the Shannon River through Penstock.
Travelling through Miena we arrived late at the Great Lake Hotel which, as it was buzzing, seemed not to matter. Our a la carte choices included local delights such as trout from Highland Lakes, and venison (probably from Western Australia, where the authorities allow commercial culling for human consumption and are less captured by the hunting lobby)…
Great Lake Hotel car park 5.3.2022 - as usual, Dick’s car is pointing the wrong way! Photo: Tim O’Loughlin
Short range cars were able to get brief hour top-ups at the hotel’s caravan outlets, but mostly people dispersed knowing that (if absolutely necessary) they could charge near their Devonport, Launceston or Hobart homes. Dick also added 10kms of range, as he wanted to take a longer round-trip route home in his 7-yo Model S via Bronte, Tarraleah, Ouse and New Norfolk, neatly finishing with 5 km in reserve.
Phil, on the other hand, began with just 90% charge level further away in Kingston, and without charging his long range Model 3 from the 2021 delivery from Fremont (California) returned the long way to Kingston with 11% remaining - that’s impressive.
Fellow travellers who claimed to be looking forward to the next occasion to get their cars dusty, are:
- Dick & Julie Friend
- Dave Connell + son Aidan
- Charles & Sherrye Weston
- Rik van der Kley + mate Nick Heyne
- Kate & Damian Hope
- Tim & Helen O’Loughlin
- Chris Kuplis + partner Sangeeta
- Phill Groom + son Brad
- Eric & Sue Tommey
- Troy Robbins
- Charles Gregory (awaiting Model 3 delivery)
- Mikey Harriss (awaiting Model Y delivery!) - watch his video compilation of his and contributed photos at https://youtu.be/FUbtbAIKwec