Congratulations to Mount Mercer Wind Farm on the successful completion of their two-year post-construction Bat and Avifauna Monitoring (BAM Plan).
Mt Mercer Wind Farm (MMWF) consists of 64 wind turbines, manufactured and installed by Senvion Australia. It provides a total wind energy output of 131.2 MW resulting in a reduction of more than 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per annum, and enough energy to power a city equivalent to the size of Ballarat in Victoria.
The endorsed BAM Plan was implemented in accordance with Planning Permit PL-SP/05/0321 by the Victorian Minister for Planning. It included a rigorous program to determine impacts to local and significant bat and avifauna species by MMWF.
Monitoring involved a variety of detailed assessments, including bird utilisation surveys, bat utilisation surveys, detectability trials, scavenger efficiency trials and monthly post-construction mortality detection surveys.
Monitoring works required strong teamwork between Ecology and Heritage Partners, MMWF staff (Shaun Coffey, Angus Holcombe and Daryl Smith), with the excellent field and project based assistance of Emma Bennet (Elmoby Ecology) and Luke Edwards and his conservation dogs (Canidae Development).
A very special mention to the statistical analysis undertaken by Symbolix (Elizabeth Stark). This was greatly appreciated by the team as it played a critical role in the overall objectives and results of the BAM Plan.
The inclusion of Luke Edward’s conservation dogs (Rubble and Ngare) was an important element of the project.
For many landowners with active pastoral farms (the majority with active lamb farming), there was much uncertainty around using dogs. This was a key hurdle at the commencement of the project.
Ongoing reassurance through numerous landowner meetings and open communication with the project team, lead to the dogs being able to survey the majority of the wind farm during appropriate times of the year.At the request of landowners to avoid the use of dogs during lambing, Ecology and Heritage Partners undertook the mortality detection surveys to ensure monitoring could continue as required.
Good quality data collection is a priority at Ecology and Heritage Partners. The use of specialist dogs to undertake surveys at wind farms is an essential component of our monitoring programs, and follows international best practice. Trials at MMWF comparing the detection rates of dogs and humans clearly supported this global trend, and we are pleased with the level of confidence obtained through the high detection rates observed.
The project illustrates the ongoing adoption of advanced survey methodologies within the wind industry in Australia. The goal is always to achieve the highest level of certainty of likely impacts. In turn, the objectives of an endorsed BAM Plan and the accuracy of information being obtained will be to a standard that provides confidence to the proponent and regulatory â€‹authorities. This confidence in survey results is paramount to the legislative planning and implementation of future operational wind farms across Victoria.
Ecology and Heritage Partners are greatly appreciative to be associated with this important work.
"Our priority when selecting an ecological consultant for our post-construction Bat and Avifauna Monitoring Program at the Mt Mercer Wind Farm was to engage an organisation that could deliver the necessary expertise while respecting our participating landowners concerns around impacts to their farming operations. While we had never used Ecology and Heritage Partners before it became clear through an RFP and landowner approval process that they were willing to go above and beyond to accommodate the various needs of all parties while still remaining competitive on price.
"Throughout the two year monitoring program Ecology and Heritage Partners continued to work with us in a flexible manner to successfully deliver the full scope of works to budget despite several minor client enforced timetable and work method variations. This included the seamless management of sub-contractors throughout this period.
"We look forward to the opportunity to work with Ecology and Heritage Partners Pty Ltd again in the future and would have no hesitation in recommending them for any similar renewable energy projects."
Mount Mercer Windfarm Pty Ltd, March 2017
For further information about this project, to discuss your renewable energy project or post-approval environmental monitoring, auditing and compliance needs, please contact us on 1300 839 325.
Photo: The monitoring team with conservation dogs Rubble, Uda and Ngare.