Why is a power supply to Mt Keira Summit important?

Council currently operates diesel powered generators that provide a power supply to the Summit Park and a vital communications tower on the site. The tower is critical to Wollongong’s communication network including vital emergency communications infrastructure.

Power was previously supplied to the Summit Park by a powerline owned and maintained by BHP Billiton. Since BHP Billiton de-energised the powerline, Council has operated and maintained diesel generators as a temporary solution until a permanent power source could be constructed. 

Why does the temporary power supply arrangement need to be replaced?

Operation of diesel powered generators is not sustainable as it is expensive and has ongoing environmental impacts.

Failure of the generators would result in a communication breakdown across a large area of Wollongong. It could also be life threatening in emergency situations such as bushfires, flooding or severe weather conditions. Power would also not be available to service Council infrastructure at the Summit Park.

Is this part of the development of the Mt Keira Summit Park?

The supply of power is a separate project to the development of the Mt Keira Summit Park. The primary concern of the powerline is ensuring an uninterrupted power supply to the communications tower.

In regard to the development of the Summit Park, Council has adopted a Vision that will inform the preparation of a Landscape Masterplan and Plan of Management for the site, which includes the provision of critical services.

Any current enjoyment of the Summit Park or future endeavour to facilitate visitors will require a reliable and sustainable power supply. A permanent power supply to the communications tower can also provide for the Summit Park.

What power supply options were considered by Council?

The Mt Keira Summit Park area is managed by Wollongong City Council. However, the area surrounding the Summit Park is managed by National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). 

In considering options Council worked closely with NPWS to ensure environmental impacts would be minimised, and also with Endeavour Energy to ensure relevant standards would be met. 

An environmental, technical and economic feasibility assessment of potential power supply options was completed by Council. The following options were more fully investigated: 

1.  Connection to existing power lines located on top of the escarpment. This was ruled out because:  
- This option didn’t meet Endeavour Energy requirements and would not be approved.  
- Easements for connection to existing power lines would result in substantial ground clearance of vegetation. 

2.  The installation of solar panels at the Summit Park. This was ruled out for the following reasons:
- The power demands of the communications tower alone would require a very large expanse of solar paneling, including construction of structures over the current car park and cleared areas at the Summit Park resulting in the loss of many trees.
- To cater for demand outside daylight hours and periods of poor weather, large battery banks contained in multiple shipping containers would need to be installed on site.

3.  Construction of a powerline spanning from Parrish Avenue, Mt Pleasant up Mt Keira to the Summit Park. This was determined to be most viable as it:
- Follows the general alignment of the previous powerline and the associated access track uses the alignment of the previous access track.
- Has the least impact on plants, animals and ecosystem of the area.
- Would involve limited infrastructure at the Summit Park with a significant portion of the powerline installed underground. 

Following the feasibility assessment Council has found option three to be the most viable. 

Where will the powerline be located and what will we see?

The powerline will follow where possible the path of the previous powerline that was owned by BHP Billiton.

Pole 1 will be installed in place of the previous pole on Parrish Avenue. Poles 2 and 3 will be positioned in the lower part of the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area (IESCA). Pole 4 will be positioned part-way up the escarpment and Pole 5 at the top of the escarpment.

The powerline within the IESCA spans above the treetops. There will also be a substation located in the Queen Elizabeth Road reserve close to the Summit Park. See Figure 1 below.

The powerline will partly be serviced by an existing access track that will be upgraded to meet current standards. As the powerline spans above the tree canopy there will be trimming only of vegetation beneath the powerline to obtain minimum safety clearances specified by Endeavour Energy. 

The power poles and the powerline as it travels up the escarpment will be visible. However, there will be no ground clearance of vegetation 


Why can’t the powerline be located entirely underground?

A large amount of vegetation would need to be cleared to gain access for construction and maintenance purposes. This would not meet the required visual and environmental outcomes that the proposed powerline option achieves.

Aboriginal heritage considerations

Mt Keira is an important place to the local Aboriginal Community, with strong cultural attachments and links to local dreaming stories. As part of the environmental assessment for the project the potential impacts on Aboriginal heritage were considered through the preparation of a Cultural Heritage Assessment. Whilst the site has strong cultural significance, it is not anticipated that the project will have any significant archaeological or cultural heritage impacts. This is due to the level of past disturbance and the presence of previous powerlines through the area.

The local Aboriginal community will continue to be consulted throughout the project.   

Will protected flora and fauna be impacted by the construction of the power line?

Council has consulted with NPWS closely throughout the design and approvals phase of the project to identify and minimise environmental impacts.

Council and NPWS have developed a Vegetation Management Plan to provide safeguards during construction. Included in this plan is a post construction weed management plan and revegetation strategy for impacted areas. 

What does the project encompass?

A temporary work-site will be established in the IESCA adjacent Parrish Avenue. At the completion of construction, materials and equipment stored on the site will be removed and the area will be restored.

Council are planning to complete the work in 2017. A bulk of the construction is estimated to take approximately 3-4 months subject to weather conditions and the availability of construction materials. There will be preparation works prior to construction, and ongoing vegetation management post construction.

To service the lower part of the powerline an existing access track will be upgraded. Two steeper areas of the access track will be concreted for safety purposes and to minimise erosion. The locked gate adjacent to Parrish Avenue will be maintained to deter unauthorised vehicles using the access track. The access track will terminate near Pole 4 part way up the escarpment.

Some construction noise can be expected for a limited duration while work on the lower aspect of the project is completed. A helicopter will be used for pole installation and to connect the power cable from pole to pole. Any disturbance from construction noise will be mitigated by restricting work hours.

Infrastructure at the Summit Park will occupy a relatively small footprint. The installation of electrical cabling along Queen Elizabeth Drive to the Summit Park will be placed underground to reduce visual impact and to reduce vegetation to be trimmed.