The first of the 57m-long blades for a $380 million wind farm project in the area where Cyclone Larry once caused devastation to farmland have been unloaded in Cairns.
The blades, made by Danish company Vestas, eventually will be trucked 50km inland to be mounted on 53 turbines being built for the Mount Emerald Wind Farm. The farm is under development by renewable energy company Ratch Australia to produce 180 megawatts of power.
The site, on the Atherton Tablelands, is where buildings were damaged and crops wiped out soon after Cyclone Larry made landfall as a category-4 storm in 2006.
The project has already met resistance from many in the nearby farming community of Walkamin who are angered by the rock-blasting and clearing of vegetation, and concerned about low-frequency noise it will generate.
Ratch Australia said another of its wind farms, at nearby Windy Hill, had suffered “minimal damage” when Cyclone Larry delivered wind gusts of up to 187km/h in March 2006. A spokesman said the turbines, each about 30 storeys high once the blades were attached, could handle “extreme conditions” — including cyclones.
“During a high-wind event or cyclone, the turbines go into survival mode, where the blades are rotated to provide the minimal area facing the wind, and are then locked in place,” he said.
The spokesman noted the wind farm was more than 50km inland, and cyclones diminished significantly in force once they crossed the coast. But he was unable to say what wind speed the new turbines and blades were designed to withstand, and a Vestas representative did not respond to a request for comment.
In 2013, Vestas executive Anders Vedel said its turbines at the time were designed to “survive” winds of up to 60m per second — about 216km/h.
Respected wind engineer Leighton Cochran said the project would have to meet Australian standards. He said those standards could allow a turbine to be built to handle up to 237.6km/h.
In 2013, eight turbines were blown down and a further nine had blades broken off when a typhoon hit China.
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