• The site of the proposed Tallawarra B power station on the shore of Lake Illawarra. (Energy Australia)
    The site of the proposed Tallawarra B power station on the shore of Lake Illawarra. (Energy Australia)

Energy Australia announced yesterday that it has been given approval to proceed with its controversial Tallawarra B Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) power station near Wollongong.

The plant, which is to be located on the shore of Lake Illawarra, has drawn objections from the general aviation community because the gas plume from the outlet will infringe the circuit area of Shellharbour Airport (Illawarra Regional) at Albion Park.

Energy Australia received the final go-ahead for the project in a letter from the NSW Department of Industry and Planning on 2 April this year.

According to the Department, it received advice from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) that the plume would not endanger aircraft provided the gas plume could be limited to a velocity of 6.1 m/s at or below 700 feet, which Energy Australia was able to demonstrate through an aviation impact assessment completed in February.

"The Department has carefully considered the report, the advice from CASA, submissions from Shellharbour City Council and AOPA Australia," the letter from Mike Young, Executive Director – Energy, Resource and Compliance, "and is satisfied that an OCGT plant could be operated such that there would be an acceptable level of aviation safety risk.

"Accordingly, the Secretary has approved the report subject to:

  • prior to construction, Energy Australia providing a report to the satisfaction of the Planning Secretary, confirming that the final design of the OCGT would meet a CPV of no more than 6.1 metres/second at or below 700 feet AMSL; and
  • prior to operations, Energy Australia providing a report to the satisfaction of the Planning Secretary confirming that all the mitigation measures and the inclusion of a plume symbol on aeronautical charts have been or would be implemented (noting that some measures can only be implemented after operations have commenced), as listed in Section 10 of the report."

Julian Turecek, Tallawarra B Project Director – Energy Australia, said the OCGT had been redesigned to ensure the plume posed no risk to aircraft in the circuit.

"During our early consultation phase of the project, concerns were raised by the airport users that the plume from the proposed open cycle gas turbine could cause potential impacts on aviation activities,” Turecek said.

“All our work has been focused on developing the best–and safest–project possible. We worked with Shellharbour Council, local airport users and other stakeholders to significantly redesign our proposal to lower the plume height.

"Our stakeholders appreciated the importance of this project for New South Wales households and businesses, and they were generous with their input. That's meant we've been able to improve the engineering design so that we have an even better project than what was originally proposed.

"With an innovative engineering solution that lowers the plume from the open cycle gas turbine, that aviation and a new gas plant can safely co-exist."

AOPA Australia lodged objections to the project on the grounds that a gas plume reaching a velocity of 6.2 m/s had the capability of stalling some GA aircraft encountering the plume, but that recreational aircraft could be sent into a spin.

Energy Australia plans to have the power station ready for the summer of 2022-23. At the peak of construction, the project is expected to create hundreds of jobs and inject $300 million to the local economy. Once commissioned, the 300-megawatt plant will be ready to start generating electricity for 60,000 homes with only 25 minutes' notice.

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