Mt Mercer wind farm, Australia

Mt Mercer wind farm, Australia

Successfully completed on time and budget at the end of 2014, the A$260 million (£140 million) Mt Mercer wind farm is the first NEC project undertaken in Australia. It is also the first wind farm to be built in Australia by Meridian Energy, New Zealand’s largest renewable electricity generator and a major user of NEC contracts since the early 2000s.

The new 64 turbine, 131MW renewable energy facility extends over a 2600ha site in the Golden Plains Shire, approximately 30km south of Ballarat in Western Victoria.  Each turbine includes a 92.5m diameter, three-bladed rotor mounted on top of an 80m tall tower. The turbines are connected via a 33kV underground electrical collector network to a new substation, which in turn links to the national grid at Elaine 22km away via a new 132kV overhead power line.  

Two ECC Contracts

Meridian engaged its main two construction partners on the Mt Mercer project under NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contracts (ECC) in September 2012. It is believed to be the first time NEC contracts have been used in Australia.

Downer EDI was awarded a A$70 million (£38 million) ECC for the design and construction of the main electrical and civil works, including the substation, underground collector system, internal road network, crane hardstandings and wind turbine foundations. Downer has extensive capabilities in the Australian renewable energy sector having previously delivered in excess of 1GW generating capacity on 11 wind farm developments across the country.

Senvion Australia (formerly REpower) was contracted under a separate ECC to supply and install the 64 MM92 wind turbines. The ultra-reliable German-designed units, of which over 1400 are in use worldwide, deliver their rated power output of 2.05MW at wind speeds of just 12.5m/s. The turbines were shipped through the Port of Geelong and then delivered to site by road, where they were installed using a 100m high Terex Demag TC2800 main crane along with a Liebherr LR 1300 crane and three 100t cranes. The first one started generating in November 2013 and the last was commissioned in May 2014.

At peak more than 250 people were working on the site.

Contract management system

To help manage the two main ECC contracts Meridian adopted a web-based contract change management application from NEC licenced content partner Conject. The system helped to integrate Meridian and its supply chain with all ECC project communications, ensuring that all parties were working within the specified timescales and adhering to the specific terms and conditions of the contracts.

Meridian has successfully used the Conject system on a number of its other NEC-procured schemes including the NZ$169 million (£85 million) Mill Creek wind farm near Wellington, New Zealand and the company’s asset management programme, which has an average annual value of NZ$30 million (£15 million).

Benefits of NEC

  • A suite of aligned contracts – can be used for integrated project delivery.
  • Collaborative contracts – both parties are encouraged to work together for defined project outcomes. 
  • Pro-active risk management – the contracts require early warning of potential issues.
  • Effective process for dealing with change – the contracts provide a structured process to follow with clear responsibilities and timeframes.
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