Bushfire Risk Assessment

A Bushfire Risk Assessment prepared by Fire Risk Consultants discusses the potential bushfire risks associated with the Delburn Wind Farm Project and outlines the recommended management measures to mitigate potential risks.

Methodology

The approach to completing the Bushfire Risk Assessment included:

  • A desktop review of publicly available information relating to bushfire in the study area;
  • Consideration of the Project’s infrastructure layout including the wind turbine generators, concrete batching plants, construction and operations facilities, battery storage system, access tracks and the underground power cable corridors;
  • Consideration of relevant legislation and policy relating to bushfires, including CFA Guidelines and Municipal Fire Management Plans; and
  • Bushfire risk modelling undertaken using Phoenix Rapidfire software.

A Bushfire Risk Assessment prepared by Fire Risk Consultants discusses the potential bushfire risks associated with the Delburn Wind Farm Project and outlines the recommended management measures to mitigate potential risks.

Legislation and Policy

The relevant legislation and government policies for fire management that are relevant to fire risk include:

  • Policy and Planning Guidelines for Development of Wind Energy Facilities in Victoria (DELWP, 2019);
  • Clause 13.02-1S Bushfire Planning and Clause 14.03-1R, all planning schemes;
  • Clause 21.04 Environmental Risks, Latrobe Planning Scheme;
  • Clause 44.06 – Bushfire Management Overlay, all planning schemes;
  • CFA Guidelines for Renewable Energy Installations (February 2019);
  • Latrobe Municipal Fire Management Plan;
  • South Gippsland Fire Management Plan;
  • Baw Baw Municipal Fire Management Plan;
  • Wind Farms and Bushfire Operations (Australian Fire an Emergency Services Authorities Council, 2014);
  • HVP Fire Management;
  • AS 3745 – 2010 ‘Planning for emergencies in facilities’.

Existing Conditions

The project is located within a high-risk bushfire landscape, as it is sited within pine and blue gum plantations at various stages of maturity interspersed with patches of native vegetation.  There have been a number of bushfires within the surrounding area in 1898, in the 1920s and 1944, and most recently in 2009, prior to Black Saturday which directly impacted the project area and surrounding communities.

Site conditions as they relate to the level of fire risk include:

Access and egress: The road network throughout the HVP plantation is considered to provide effective access to most areas of the plantation, with more than one option available in most locations.

Topography: The project site is located along a ridge line of the Strzelecki Ranges. All proposed turbine locations are considered to be accessible and have been sited to enable construction and operational access. The construction vehicles would require more space than firefighting vehicles, therefore the road network is considered suitable for firefighting access and egress.

Vegetation: The project site currently comprises blue-gum and pine plantations with native vegetation dominating gullies and other locations throughout the plantation. It is understood that HVP is in the process of transitioning away from blue gum to 100% pine plantation, which reduces fire spotting risk. Blue gums have a greater spotting potential (up to 30 kilometres on code red days) than pine plantations (1 kilometre).

Surrounding land use: In many areas of Victoria the highest fire risk typically comes from the north-west or south-west.  The land to the west of the wind farm site is largely used for intensively irrigated agriculture, so it remains largely non-flammable even during dry years, providing a large buffer to possible external fire threats in that direction.  Ignitions likely to the threaten the plantation are more likely to come from within the plantation or immediately adjacent areas such as Mirboo North, Coalville, Hernes Oak and Darlimurla.

Firefighting capabilities: Numerous CFA and FRV fire brigades are located throughout the Latrobe Valley and the HVP Gippsland Plantations Forest Industry Brigade also comprises over 100 employees and contractors, enabling a quick response to reports of bushfires within the Latrobe Valley.

Potential Impacts and Mitigation Measures

The risk assessment evaluates the project against the CFA Guidelines and confirms that the elements of the Guidelines for the development of utility installations, emergency management, site infrastructure, site operations, and the additional conditions specific for wind energy facilities and battery installations, have all been incorporated into the project design.  There is one element of the CFA Guidelines that is not included in the project design which is the inclusion of a perimeter road around the entire site.  The extensive network of public roads and fire tracks in and around the plantation as well as widened tracks between and surrounding the turbines and other infrastructure affords a high level of accessibility for firefighting vehicles and provides compliance with this criterion without explicitly building it into the project design. Perimeter access will be provided around each of the Operations and Maintenance Facility, Visitors Areas and Terminal Station.

The bushfire risk assessment also presents the results of bushfire modelling completed to assess fire risk before and after fire risk reduction works (such as fuel management activities) proposed by the project.  The modelling uses Phoenix Rapidfire, to assess the potential bushfire impact of the proposal assuming the same weather conditions as existed during the 2009 bushfires to provide a frame of reference familiar to the community. Phoenix Rapidfire is used by the State of Victoria to model fire scenarios before and after fire risk reduction works i.e. fuel management activities, to calculate and understand fire risk.

The bushfire risk assessment concludes that at lower fire danger indices, the presence of the Project may reduce bushfire spread through the plantations due to an enhanced fuel management and road network that will assist in a suppression response.  At elevated fire danger conditions, minimal change is experienced.

Recommendations

The risk assessment recommends a series of bush fire risk mitigation measures that will need to be implemented during the construction and operations phases of the project, including (but not limited to) the following:

Construction Phase

  • Ensuring all activities undertaken during the Fire Danger Period are appropriate under the Country Fire Authority Act 1958;
  • Adhering to CFA’s Guideline for Renewable Energy Installations (February 2019);
  • Ensuring that all construction and operational works follow appropriate Work Health and Safety requirements;
  • Facilitating a high standard of communication with landowners, relevant stakeholders and the community regarding daily activities via a ‘steering committee’ or the like and an appropriate communication plan;
  • Providing appropriate bushfire training for contractors and staff;
  • Establishing an APZ (Asset Protection Zone) around each turbine and considering other zoning strategies to assist bushfire mitigation;
  • Ensuring all building construction is in line with regulations and codes of building in bushfire-prone areas and AS3959;
  • Ensuring appropriate bunding in areas where there is potential for flammable fuels and oils to leak and create bushfires or other environmental risks.

Operational Phase

  • Installing fire detection systems, in-built fire protection and suppression systems, remote alarming and notification systems in turbines to report potential bushfire risks;
  • Establish remote shut down procedures for turbine operations during bushfires or reported faults, or at the request of emergency services;
  • Installing lighting conductors to dissipate electricity to ground and reduce turbine damage and bushfire risk;
  • Inclusion of radiant heat barriers to eliminate the potential for flame contact and radiant heat onto the terminal station infrastructure;
  • Undertaking regular inspections and maintain records of all turbines, the substation and power cables;
  • Developing a bushfire response plan and communications plan;
  • Ensuring suitable firefighting equipment is available onsite or readily accessible including the provision of firefighting water supplies at strategic locations around the project.

Conclusion

The Bushfire Risk Assessment concluded that the proposed Delburn Wind Farm and associated battery installation and terminal station will not increase bushfire risk in the landscape if the recommendations during the development, construction and operation phases outlined above are implemented.

More Information

Detailed Planning Permit Applications
To view the detailed planning permit applications for the Wind Energy Facility and Terminal Station associated with the Delburn Wind Farm, view the following links: