Transgrid and ElectraNet are together working to deliver a new 900 kilometre, energy interconnector transmission line from Robertstown, South Australia to Wagga Wagga, NSW with an added connection to Red Cliffs in north-west Victoria. The interconnector, a key element of the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan, is known as EnergyConnect.
EnergyConnect will save NSW customers AUD$180M a year and create 1,500 new construction jobs. It will provide new opportunities for a wide range of businesses, and deliver around $4 billion in economic benefits to NSW, much of it to regional communities.
EnergyConnect will help to accelerate Australia’s energy transition by connecting customers with more renewable generation and help to abate an estimated one million tonnes of carbon emissions each year, a significant contribution to meeting Australia’s climate change targets.
Given the size of the EnergyConnect project, it has been broken into four components with respect to planning approvals – two components in NSW (Western and Eastern), one in Victoria and one in South Australia. WSP has worked with Transgrid on both the NSW and the Victorian components of the project including route selection, environmental impact assessment, planning approvals and support to the regulatory process.
Identifying Environmental Constraints and Opportunities to Enable Planning Approvals
Working closely with the Transgrid project team, WSP has delivered a range of services during the environmental assessment, planning and approvals phase through the NSW (Western), NSW (Eastern) and Victorian sections of the project.
To date, these services have included:
- Options studies and route alignment assessments
- Preparation of two Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) for both the NSW Western component and NSW Eastern component including digitised versions via our proprietary Online Community Portal. This service also included coordination of a host of in-house specialist services and external specialist teams such as:
- Social impact assessment
- Traffic, transport and access
- Air quality
- Noise and vibration
- Contaminated land management
- Hydrology, flooding and surface water
- Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal heritage
- Landscape and visual
- Agricultural lands
- Bushfire hazard
- Economic assessment.
- Preparation of EPBC referral applications for submission to the Commonwealth DAWE for both NSW (Western) and NSW (Eastern) components.
- Environmental constraints identification and impact assessments for the Victorian component required to support a planning permit application.
- Delivery of complex and significant biodiversity offset strategies and packages.
- Regulatory stakeholder engagement at local, state and federal government levels.
Detailed Biodiversity Assessments
With the project spanning many hundreds of kilometres across state boundaries impacts to a range of environmental aspects were identified. Determining the type and extent of impacts to the biodiversity values in the project area was a critical consideration for our delivery of both the NSW EISs and Victorian planning approvals.
Our ecological experts undertook detailed biodiversity assessments in order to determine the predicted levels of impact from the project and to identify the required mitigation measures.
WSP is also continuing to work closely with Transgrid to determine the best strategies for biodiversity offsets in both NSW and Victoria. A key focus of the team is an offset package that will deliver an enduring in-perpetuity conservation outcome within both the local and regional area.
As some of the flora and fauna species are seasonal, our ecology team undertook (and currently continue to undertake) extensive assessments over a sustained period of more than 18 + months in order to develop a full understanding of the local area. The initial elements of these studies were also used to guide the final corridor alignment process assessment for both the NSW (Western) and NSW (Eastern) projects, providing an understanding for threatened or endangered areas to be avoided during subsequent stages of design.
Providing Regional Expertise
The main challenges associated with this project largely stem from the sheer size and scale. With a span of around 700 km for the NSW and Victorian components, we were presented with unique problems, many of which were specific to locations along various points.
To overcome the diverse challenges, WSP called on multi-disciplinary experts from our offices across Australia to provide specialised advice. By providing region specific experts, WSP delivered best for project service to our client and mitigated location-based challenges.
Integrated Service Offering
By providing a highly detailed and integrated service offering, WSP has provided an expanded role to include additional technical expertise and strategic advice within the options assessments phase. Our transmissions team also provided specialised options advice that included functionality, cost and constructability aspects.
We also seconded one of our specialised environmental consultants to support the Transgrid team during the design and construction contractor tendering process, ensuring project needs for environment and planning were appropriately considered.
To assist the community in understanding the projects we also utilised our proprietary Online Community Portal to produce two digital EISs to allow increase access to project for the local communities along the alignment of the project.