Case Studies: Our Communities
The following case studies attempt to bring to life a little of what we do each day for our Communities. Please select a case study to view:
Listening and delivering – key ingredients in community engagement
Cullerin Range Wind Farm, New South Wales.
Stockyard Hill Wind Farm is one of Origin’s largest proposed wind farm developments. Located between Beaufort and Skipton, 35km west of Ballarat in Victoria, the proposal is for 212 turbines with the potential to deliver enough renewable energy to power more than 238,000 homes each year (1).
One of the biggest challenges when initiating a large wind farm project is engaging with the local community, who will live side by side with the project throughout its development and, if taken to completion, its operational life of around 25 years. Not everyone will agree with the decisions and trade-offs we make on major projects. But as with all good relationships, it is important to try to listen and communicate.
We developed a consultation program for Stockyard Hill aiming to give timely and accurate information to interested members of the community, as well as many opportunities to provide feedback at every step along the way.
We contacted every adjoining neighbour to the proposed wind farm and, in most cases, visited people’s homes to listen to their views first-hand. The initial phase was an attempt to contact and visit every residence within 5km of the project boundary. While resource intensive, personal visits are potentially one of the most effective ways to engage with the community through listening and responding directly to any questions they may have.
Since the program’s inception in 2007, the Stockyard Hill project team has made contact with more than 1,200 residents within the Beaufort and Skipton townships and hinterland.
Community information sessions were held which gave local residents and other interested stakeholders an additional forum within which they could ask questions. Comments ranged from general questions about renewable energy, to local concerns about protecting sensitive landscape features, to questions about the number of jobs associated with the construction and operation of the wind farm.
Given the importance of understanding potential impacts of the project on fauna, particularly the Brolga (a bird species), a dedicated information session was held to provide Origin with some local insights about a species with a relatively small population in the region. The information on Brolga nesting and flocking sites collated by Origin led to the removal of many turbines from the original indicative proposal. It has also formed part of a South-West Victoria Brolga Research Project, supported by a number of wind developers including Origin as well as the Commonwealth and Victorian governments.
The consultation also identified other local issues which, after expert evaluation and advice, led to the removal or relocation of other turbine sites and/or the development of appropriate measures to reduce predicted impacts.
To support the consultation process Origin developed a range of resources to keep the community informed, including a newsletter, fact sheets, advertorials, and a dedicated project website www.stockyardhillwindfarm.com.au and hotline 1800 753 730.
As the Stockyard Hill project develops, Origin is committed to ensuring the conversation with the local community continues.
1. Figures are based on a long-term average forecast.
Coal seam gas water: Working towards the right solutions
CSG water testing, Queensland.
Spanning Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory, the Great Artesian Basin is Australia’s largest and most significant groundwater basin. It provides vital groundwater to landholders who rely on it to sustain their crops and livestock.
Members of the local community are understandably interested in the potential impacts of Origin’s coal seam gas (CSG) activities in south Queensland.
CSG is held in coal seams by water and ground pressure. To release the CSG, the pressure within the coal seams is reduced through removal of a portion of the water. A single CSG well can turn out anywhere between zero and 500,000 litres of water per day, and will vary significantly over the production life of the well. This water is generally of quite poor quality and only useable by farmers for stock rather than irrigation.
Over the past year, local communities and the Queensland agricultural industry have voiced concerns that groundwater they rely on, which is sourced from bores within the same basin, could be affected by the CSG extraction process. We have spent time listening and have undertaken extensive groundwater research. By sharing the findings of our research with the community and other stakeholders, we have improved our understanding of how the CSG industry can successfully co-exist with other users of the country’s groundwater supply.
We have also made a commitment that if any water bores are unduly affected by our gas extraction activities, resulting in reduced water accessibility for landowners, we will take action to ‘make good’ the situation, for example by deepening the bore within the same aquifer or installing a new water bore into a different aquifer to provide a replacement supply.
We are currently undergoing a major survey of all landholders’ water bores within our tenements (the areas where we have CSG resources) to measure the water levels and collect samples for water quality analysis before we commence CSG production activities in the area – a process which involves visiting hundreds of bores.
So far, our teams have visited approximately 60 landholders and have sampled at least 135 individual bores, which has allowed us to discuss in detail our activities, and listen to their issues. The results of this survey will serve as a baseline measure for Origin to evaluate the impact of our CSG activities on water resources.
We have also worked with leading hydro geologists to develop a comprehensive model of the water resource in the Surat Basin in Queensland, where our CSG activities are concentrated. This model has provided us with a sophisticated understanding of
the forecast effect of our CSG activities on the level of water contained within the basin. By better understanding this, we are able to develop more effective monitoring programs and actions to mitigate any impacts.
One of the biggest challenges faced by the CSG industry with CSG water is that the water extracted from the coal seams is not immediately useable. It is often brackish, meaning it contains salt. To combat this problem, we treat the water at a reverse osmosis plant, after which it can be used for industrial and construction processes, for irrigation and to supplement environmental flows in local rivers. Origin pioneered the adaptation of reverse osmosis technology to treat CSG water and was the first to apply it in Australia’s CSG industry. We have the capacity to treat around 32 million litres of water per day through our two award-winning plants at the Spring Gully and Talinga facilities.
We are also investigating the feasibility of injecting the treated water back into aquifers overlying and underlying the coal seams. While the technical and economic feasibility of injection is still being investigated, early indications are that this could be one of the ways, when combined with other solutions, to sustainably manage CSG water.
In addition, we are developing other solutions such as the creation of a large-scale irrigated crop of pongamia trees at Spring Gully. The pongamia species, a legume which avoids the need for fertilizer, was chosen because of its suitability to local land and climate conditions and for its potential uses, which include as a biodiesel fuel and as a protein meal for stock feed. A 180 hectare plantation is currently utilising all of the water produced from the Spring Gully gas field and will test the potential to provide the basis for several new and sustainable industries for Queensland.
At Origin, we continue to work on groundwater matters. We have already invested significant funds and effort into research, development and monitoring to ensure we find the most appropriate solution, or set of solutions, to minimise any impact of our activities on precious water resources.
New assets help to lower emissions intensity of our generation portfolio
Workers at Darling Downs Power Station, Queensland.
As Australia’s population continues to grow, so too does the country’s demand for energy. In the next 10 to 15 years, we are expecting Australia’s energy needs to increase by 15 per cent. If we look even further ahead, we expect this growth to be between 30 and 40 per cent in the next 20 years.
Our challenge at Origin is to increase our electricity generation in order to meet this growing demand for energy, while also taking action to reduce the total carbon emissions and the emissions intensity of our electricity generation.
For several years now, Origin has been building a low carbon intensity portfolio of gas-fired and renewable generation assets including wind, geothermal and solar PV technologies.
This year we made further progress with the development of these assets, including the completion of our first wind farm, a 30MW facility at Cullerin Range in New South Wales. This facility, which produces enough energy to provide power to 15,000 homes, helps avoid the production of approximately 100,000 tonnes of carbon annually.
During the period we also commissioned the 630 MW Darling Downs Power Station, which commenced commercial operations on 1 July 2010. Darling Downs, which can power 400,000 homes, is powered by natural gas and uses combine cycle gas turbine technology, making it one of Australia’s cleanest baseload power stations. It emits less than half of the greenhouse gas of a typical coal-fired power station and also uses less than 3 per cent of the water of a coal fired power station.
The completion of these two power stations helped deliver a 15 per cent reduction in the emissions intensity of our Generation business to 145.2 kt CO2e/PJ over the prior year. This reduction is equivalent to removing 10,4001 small cars of the road.
This is small, but not insignificant progress, as we seek to lower the emissions intensity of our generation portfolio through continued investment in cleaner and renewable forms of electricity production. These actions also ensure we are well prepared for the potential introduction of a carbon price in the future.
1 Calculator sourced from http://www.originenergy.com.au/2802/Green-your-car/
Mt Stuart Power Station welcomes first school visit
Mt Stuart is a peaking power station in Townsville with a total capacity of 414 MW. It is the largest power station in North Queensland and is designed to generate power at times of high demand, for example in summer when air conditioners tend to be extensively used and throughout winter when there is high demand for heating.
As operator of a large power station in the area, we seek to play an active role in the Townsville community. We also believe we have an important role to play in helping the community, particularly local school children, understand how the power station operates and the basics of electricity generation. In June 2010, we welcomed our first group of school students to tour the site.
The year five students from Heatley State School were given a presentation by Plant Manager Laurie Korn and Senior Plant Technicians before commencing their tour of the site. On the tour, students learnt about how electricity is made, how turbines operate, the electricity supply chain and renewable and non renewable sources of fuel. Students completed an activity sheet, to ensure they fully understood the process, while teachers were provided with materials and resources to help with future lessons on electricity generation and use.
Year five students from Heatley State School tour Mt Stuart Power Station.
“At the end of the tour, the children were awarded with an Origin certificate of congratulations to display on their fridge, a bag of goodies, and a fact sheet to take home and discuss with their parents. It’s a good way for Origin to support the education of young people,” said Amanda Calvert, Origin’s Community Relations Advisor for Townsville.
Given the success, the team at Mt Stuart Power Station expect this to be the first of many school visits to the site.
Teaching Kids Safe Energy Practices
A student at One Mile State School learns about safe and efficient energy use.
Many of the injuries to children involving energy happen at home and can be easily prevented. Origin’s Energy Safety Week is held each August to help students in preschool and primary school understand how energy works and educate them on ways to keep safe while using gas and electricity.
Safety is our number one priority at Origin and Energy Safety Week was developed with this in mind. The program helps families keep safe around energy with more than 280,000 students across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia participating.
The theme for this year’s program was energy safety in the home. Students were educated on how to be careful around appliances and cords, and encouraged to share their safety messages in fun and creative ways with the school community. Through the activities students also gain knowledge that can be applied at home and also shared with their families. According to parents, the program makes a real difference, with 86 per cent of parents reporting that their child behaves more safely around energy after they have been a part of Energy Safety Week.
The program is free for schools and teachers are provided with an Energy Safety Week toolkit containing classroom activities, website support, worksheets, stickers and support materials. Activities encourage students to share their safety tips with their families and the community. The activities have strong connections to the state curricula and are suitable for all primary school levels and preschool students.