1 Site history and contaminated site requirements
1.1 Is the City aware the site is contaminated?
Yes. The former South Fremantle landfill site was operated as a waste disposal site between approximately 1930 and 1991.
According to Department of Environment Regulation (DWER)’s summary of records for this site:
The site is contaminated and remediation (such as the development of a site management plan, and further groundwater assessment) is required to reduce the risks of human health, the environment and environmental values to acceptable levels. Therefore the site is classified as ‘contamination – remediation required.’
DWER stated actions require creation of a site management plan to outline long term management measures, including measures for managing asbestos and landfill gas. Further groundwater inspections are required and Department of Health also require regular inspections of accessible areas.
In accordance with the Contaminated Sites Act (2003) and the 2013 Interim Site Management Plan, the City has been conducting and will continue to conduct site investigation, monitoring and management activities with the advice and support of the DWER and the Department of Health.
1.2 The site is classified as 'contaminated - remediation required'. Why isn’t it being remediated?
The definition of 'remediation' in the Contaminated Sites Act 2003 is broad, and includes measures to manage contamination such as restricting access or use of the site, as well as active 'clean-up' measures such as treating, removing or engineered means of containing contamination.
The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) does not expect the City of Fremantle to carry out active clean-up, for example, excavating and removing waste from the landfill.
DWER and the Department of Health require the City of Fremantle to develop a site management plan to outline long-term management measures for the entire South Fremantle landfill. That management plan includes regular inspections and removal of any asbestos materials from surface soils in accessible areas; further groundwater monitoring; management of landfill gas; and occupational health and safety measures for workers carrying out intrusive works or excavation, for example, utility companies carrying out works in the service trench for the gas main that crosses the site.This is in addition to the requirement for Epuron to develop a site management plan for the solar farm proposal, which is a condition of the company’s planning approval.
1.3 How contaminated is the former South Fremantle landfill site? Can it be remediated?
The site was operated by the City as a landfill between the 1930s and the 1990s. During that period, uncontrolled fill included domestic and industrial waste and fly ash was deposited on the site. The site is also thought to contain quarantine waste.
Under the Contaminated Sites Act 2003, the site is classified as 'contaminated - remediation required'. The community has expressed strong concerns over potential adverse health and environmental impacts if a clean-up of the site were to occur through a ‘dig out and dump’ approach. Quarantine waste would require particularly stringent removal practices. In any event, studies show this approach to remediation as not being financially viable.A management plan is currently in place which includes regular groundwater testing and monitoring of gases.
1.4 What does the City have to do to manage the site to meet DWER requirements?
The current site management plan is known as the Interim Site Management Plan (2013). This prioritised monitoring of landfill gas. The latest risk assessment, documented in the Mandatory Auditors Report (2017) concluded that landfill gas was unlikely to pose a risk to off-site receptors while the site is in its current, undeveloped, land use. Further groundwater assessment is required. The City is currently assessing proposals for groundwater monitoring.
Compliance with the Interim Site Management Plan and Mandatory Auditors Report will be required by the City whether the solar farm progresses or not.
Further assessment and/or management measures are required if a change in land use is proposed. In accordance with the Contaminated Sites Act (2003) DWER requires a site management plan (SMP) for the solar farm to document the necessary site management procedures such as measures for managing asbestos and landfill gas. Epuron has commissioned a SMP which is subject to review by a DWER accredited Contaminated Sites Auditor for approval, endorsement by DWER and subsequent implementation by Epuron, as required by the Act and relevant DWER guidelines. The proposed solar farm development is also subject to separate approvals as described in other parts of these FAQs.
2 Possible uses for the South Fremantle landfill site
2.1 Could the rest of the landfill site be used for other purposes?
2.2 Could the site be used for public open space?
As explained in 1.2, the City is required to restrict access to the site making it unsuitable for public open space. The use of the site for a solar farm is considered temporary and it could be removed in the future. If removal, destruction, or dispersal of contaminated material can be done in a low risk and feasible way in the future, then other uses including public open space could be considered at that time. Any future uses or development would be subject to proper planning, environmental and community engagement at that time.
2.3 Why can’t the site be remediated and used for housing development?
2.4 The South Fremantle landfill site is only a few hundred metres from the coast. Would wave, current technology for power generation be a better choice?
3 Benefits of putting a solar farm on the former South Fremantle landfill site
3.1 Why is this project important to the City of Fremantle?
The solar farm project is in line with the recommendations of the City’s draft energy plan and as well as its commitment to carbon neutrality for corporate emissions to 2020 and the aim of being 100% powered by renewables by 2025. The City of Fremantle continues to be a leader in sustainability, with the solar farm initiative recognised in the City’s One Planet Action Plan and future visioning projects.
3.2 How would the Solar Farm benefit the community?
4 Working with Epuron
4.1 Who is Epuron and how did they get to be working on this site?
Epuron is a Sydney based Australian company that has developed numerous renewable energy projects in Australia. Epuron has developed and operates several large scale solar and wind projects including operation of solar farms in 5 locations in the Northern Territory.
4.2 What happened to the City's first preferred proponent, First Solar?
In its expressions of interest, First Solar intended to develop a 10- 12MW(ac) solar PV power plant. However, it subsequently determined that the site’s topography would constrain the size too suit their approach. First Solar also cited difficulties in achieving a power purchasing agreement.
In approving the preferred proponent the council agreed that a ‘standby proponent’ (Epuron) could be approached if the first proponent withdrew. Epuron agreed to participate and signed an exclusive working agreement with the City in October 2015.
4.3 Why does Epuron believe it can do this when First Solar couldn’t?
While there is no guarantee of success, Epuron’s business model is different from that of First Solar. Unlike First Solar, Epuron is technology agnostic, which means it is not tied to a specific type of solar panel. It will select the equipment that best fits the site. Epuron is also an experienced developer of smaller, utility-scale sites of the scale contemplated for South Fremantle, as demonstrated by its growing portfolio of operating solar projects which includes the 4.1 MW Uterne solar power plant at Alice Springs; the three off-grid TKLN sites in the Northern Territory which total 1 MW; and the 1.8 MW Yulara solar power plant which is currently under construction at Ayers Rock Resort.
4.4 I understood Epuron’s exclusive working agreement with the City was only for twelve months. Why are they still involved nearly three years on?
The original exclusive working agreement (EWA) with Epruon was signed in October 2015. The EWA allowed for extension as long as reasonable endeavours had been made. In 2016 Epuron requested, and the City agreed to a 12 month extension (to October 2017.)
In June 2017, the City’s Finance, Policy Organisation and Legislation (FPOL) committee authorised the Chief Executive Officer to negotiate and agree the terms of an extended EWA with Epuron which included principles for negotiation of a long term lease for the landfill site. The revised agreement was executed and is valid until October 2018.
The outcomes of the negotiations for the lease are documented in the business plan currently being advertised. In the meantime, Epuron has achieved conditional planning approval and is working on satisfying environmental conditions.
5 Buying and selling power
5.1 Would the City buy the power?
A large component of the City’s power needs is considered to be contestable (so it has a choice of power retailer) Council has a preference to transition to locally sourced green power’ rather than purchasing carbon offsets. When it’s up and running, the South Fremantle Solar Farm will be a local source of green power and the City could buy this indirectly through the retailer.
5.2 Will I be able to buy power directly from the solar farm?
Currently, all residential (non-contestable) customers must buy electricity from Synergy. If you opt for green power through your retailer, it is possible that a portion of the power you purchase will come from the Fremantle solar farm. That is, output from the solar farm could be purchased by an electricity retailer such as Synergy under a power purchase agreement and could then form part of the green power electricity generation mix that the retailer draws on to serve its customers.
5.3 What is contestable power?
Consumers within the South West Interconnected System (SWIS) which consume more than 50 megawatt hours of electricity a year (an average of 137 units per day) have the option of choosing their electricity retailer. They are known as contestable customers. Non-contestable customers, including most residential customers, must purchase their power from Synergy.
The SWIS covers an area of 261,000 square kilometres. It covers the south west within a line that stretches roughly from Kalbarri to Southern Cross and Ravensthorpe and includes a leg reaching east to Kalgoorlie. The SWIS is a self-contained network which meets the generation and transmission needs of electricity consumers within its boundaries.
6 Design of the solar farm
6.1 What will the solar panels look like?
A final decision on the profile of the panels is yet to be made, however the highest profile would be around 3 metres at its maximum point above the ground.
6.2 Will the solar panels be visible from nearby houses?
Given the setbacks, even the higher profile 3 metre structures would not be visible from the ground floor of neighbouring properties. The panels may be visible from upper floors just as the landfill site is visible from this viewpoint.
6.3 How will it affect the Hollis Park path?
The Hollis park path way and the landscaping in that area will remain untouched.
6.4 Can planting be placed around the border to screen the panels?
No border planting is planned for the site. Any planting on the site would need to be lower than the height of the panels to avoid overshadowing the panels. This is unlikely to be any more effective as a screen than existing fencing.
6.5 Will there be any impact of bird life, wildlife and native vegetation?
As much of the site on which the solar farm would be constructed is contaminated, it is unlikely to be an appropriate habitat for native fauna. Also much of the existing growth on the site is weeds. Notwithstanding, plants, including weeds, are an effective way of helping to stabilise the soil and reduce wind born dust. Existing planting will be left in place as much as possible and additional ground covers provided to assist in reducing dust. Planting on Hollis park pathway will be untouched by this proposal.
6.6 There are some heritage interests both Aboriginal and European surrounding the site, how will the Solar Farm affect these?
Lot 1 – the southern portion of the proposed site has no heritage listing. An application was made to include this area in the adjacent Hollis Park listing and put it on the state heritage register, however the Heritage Council of WA (HCWA) declined to list and the City agreed.
The three lots which form the northern part of the proposed solar farm site are listed in the municipal Heritage Inventory as part of the Hollis Park listing and have landscape significance. The area is not listed at a state level. The site has historic significance for its former use running horses and access to South Beach, and for its associations with the marine/boat building industry in the South Fremantle area; it has social value for the local community. However due to its use as a landfill site much of the landscape has been modified. In addition its classification as contaminated access to the site has been restricted for many years.
The use of the site for a solar farm will cause minimal disturbance and would be removable, leaving the site much as it is today.
The site is not registered as being of Aboriginal heritage significance.
6.7 How has the community been consulted on proposals for the South Fremantle Solar Farm?
In May 2015 the City called for expressions of interest from community members wishing to be part of a community reference group (CRG). A group consisting of eight people was formed. The objectives of group were to: raise ideas and concerns with the planning or operation of the Solar Farm, provide comment on layout concepts particularly in relation to local access and amenity.
The group met a few times and was provided with updates including notification regarding advertising of the DA. However much of the period leading up to the Development Application involved Epuron’s dealings with Western Power, power retailers, and the environmental agencies which didn’t warrant community involvement.
Project updates were made available to the broader community through the local media and the City’s own communication channels including the City’s website at key milestones such as the Change from First Solar to Epuron and the advertising of the development application.
The development application was made available for community comment by:
- sending letters to owners/occupiers of properties in the City of Fremantle and City of Cockburn within a 100 metre radius of the application site boundary.
- installing large signs on Cockburn Road, the intersection of Daly Street and the public path, and near the Hollis Park playground at the northern end of Keeling Way.
- placing notices in the City’s ‘Newsbites’ page in the Fremantle Herald
- adding information to the City of Fremantle website
- holding a community information session in Fremantle Town Hall on 1 March 2018 (advertised on the City’s website and in the Fremantle Herald)
Separate to consultation on the development application, council resolved to approve advertising of the draft business plan relating to the proposed lease of part of the site to Epuron Projects Pty Ltd.
Once the final site management documents are approved these will be made available to the public and a briefing will be held prior to commencement of construction.
7 Managing risks in building and operating a Solar Farm on the South Fremantle Landfill site
7. 1 Has a Solar Farm been built on a tip or contaminated site before?
Solar is under active development at several closed landfill sites in Australia including one owned by the City of Newcastle. There are several solar farms operating on closed landfill sites in the United States. Other sites in Europe and Japan are constructed or under development. These have ground-mounted panels similar to the design proposed by Epuron.
Developments of many other kinds have occurred on tip sites across Australia ranging from public open space to full scale urban development. In all cases, the proponents have had to comply with the relevant environmental regulations and to manage and mitigate the risks particular to that site.
In designing the solar farm and associated site management protocols, Epuron will need to demonstrate how it can manage and mitigate the risks with respect to the former South Fremantle land fill site and comply with relevant environmental conditions specific to that site. The proposed management framework is set out in the Site Management Plan.
7. 2 What risk analysis has been undertaken on the solar farm particularly with respect to its development on a contaminated site close to a residential area?
GHD, a consultancy with long involvement in the landfill’s management, was engaged by Epuron to prepare a Site Management Plan (SMP). The SMP’s purpose is to inform the design of the solar farm to avoid, mitigate and manage negative impacts and risks on surrounding residents associated with existing contamination as well as risks associated with the construction and operation of the solar farm. The SMP will be reviewed by a qualified contaminated sites auditor according to requirements set by the Department of Water and Environment Regulation.
The purpose of the SMP is to inform the design of the solar farm in such a way as to avoid, mitigate and manage negative impacts and risks on surrounding residents. Risks assessed include risks associated with existing contamination as well as risks associated with the construction and operation of the solar farm.
7.3 Is Epuron qualified to manage the complex risks associated with the site?
In order to assess and managed risks associated with the landfill site, Epuron engaged GHD, a consultancy with long involvement in the landfill’s management, to prepare the site management plan and other documents.
7.4 What will be done to minimise site disturbance and dust, particularly in Fremantle’s windy climate and how will this be monitored and reported?
It is understood that previous redevelopment of former industrial sites adjacent to South Beach caused much concern and nuisance to surrounding residents particularly in the form of dust and potential airborne contaminants.
The development of a solar farm with structures which effectively sit on top of existing material will cause significantly less disturbance than the residential development of the 1990s and 2000s. Notwithstanding some disturbance may occur and this will be managed in the following way.
Dust will be monitored and acceptable levels will be determined in conjunction with expert input. If levels are found to exceed what is acceptable, suppression measures will be implemented including:
· Water sprays and/or use of other dust suppression products,
· Sheeting (or similar) laid over and secured to cover localised exposed areas,
· Changing work protocols such as avoiding work on very windy days.
On areas which will not be disturbed or where structures will be placed on top of undisturbed ground, measures to be adopted include:
· Retain existing vegetation
· Use water to keep down dust
Ground disturbance is being evaluated in certain areas of the site. Where this is proposed the ground will require prior investigation to minimise the risk of disturbing potentially hazardous material. These areas will be visually assessed and samples will be taken for chemical analysis. A Sampling and Analysis Quality Plan has been drawn up as part of the Site Management Plan. No disturbance of the site will occur unless it is deemed safe. See Site Management Plan Section 5.0 for more information.
On areas which may be disturbed and where no dangerous material has been found (for example, where vehicles move around or where the ground requires levelling) one or more of the following measures is being considered:
· Avoid working in very windy conditions
· Use water to keep down dust
· Temporary breathable sheeting
· Ground cover revegetation
· Any other measure as required by DWER.
(See also Site Management Plan Sections 10.3 & 10.7)
7.5 How will risks around the potential presence of gas near high voltage equipment be managed?
Data suggests that gas levels at the site are not high in comparison to other landfill sites. Also the solar farm comprises few enclosed spaces where gas could accumulate. There is existing gas monitoring across the site and this will continue both during and after construction of the solar farm.
Nevertheless, some electrical infrastructure is likely to be housed within enclosures. Appropriate venting measures will be incorporated into design to minimise the accumulation of gas in these enclosures. Spark suppression measures to control ignition sources will also be implemented. (See also Site Management Plan Sections 7.3 and 8.3 and Table 16)
Current expectations are that all enclosed high voltage electrical infrastructure will be located a minimum 50 metres away from nearby residences on the site’s boundary.
7.6 Does solar panel reflectivity create a problem with glare? Does this affect aircraft?
Solar photovoltaic panels are designed to absorb rather than reflect light. They typically reflect less light than many other objects (e.g. water bodies, steel structures). Nevertheless, Epuron will consider reflectivity during the site development process.
Regarding aircraft, there are numerous examples of solar projects that have been installed in close proximity to airports. A comprehensive study of aviation incidents for which glare was identified as a principal cause, concluded that glare was typically found to come from bodies of water or the sun itself being low on the horizon. The South Fremantle Solar Farm is not be located close to an airport.
7.7 Will there be disturbance from the site?
There will be negligible noise or movement on the site once the solar farm is operational. There may be some disturbance during construction however the proponent will be required to submit a construction management plan which will contain provisions for managing and minimising dust, noise and other disturbances during construction phase.
7.8 Will the panels track and does the tracking mechanism make noise?
Epuron has not yet completed final equipment selection for the site. The solar panels are, however, more likely to be fixed in place. Use of solar tracking technologies which follow the sun’s path throughout day is less likely; this technology is not noisy.
7.9 Could disturbance of soil be caused by rainfall, stormwater or changes to the micro-climate and wind patterns due to the presence of the solar panels?
No significant alteration to drainage characteristics of the site is proposed. Run-off from each solar panel is shed onto the ground surface and therefore will be limited and consistent across the site (that is, it is anticipated that there will be no area of concentrated runoff). Ground cover vegetation will be maintained to minimise erosion.
No specific testing of panels has occurred with respect to the micro effects of wind however any effects are anticipated to be negligible. Mitigation of the effects of windborne dust is described above.
7.10 Will the solar farm produce electromagnetic radiation?
Exposure to electromagnetic radiation (EMR) occurs through the use of common “man-made” objects such as mobile phones, powerlines and computers. It also occurs via natural sources. The effect of EMR decreases rapidly as distance from the source increases and where materials (e.g. a wall) are present to shield the EMR.
Inverters and high voltage grid infrastructure are sources of EMR from the solar farm. This equipment will be centralised within the site, greater than 50 metres from the nearest residences. Other infrastructure will be similar in nature to a substation. Studies have shown that EMR becomes indistinguishable from the background due to other domestic sources within 5 metres of the source.
Inverter stations will conform to international standards and guidelines; known as Electromagnetic Compatibility standards. Finally, the project will connect to the existing Western Power network in the northern portion of Sandown Park or along Cockburn Road; only a short run of power-line will be constructed to achieve this.
7.11 Will there be noise emissions from the solar farm?
Operational noise emissions from the solar farm are being considered as part of its design. Inverters are the major source of potential noise and have been centralised within the site at a distance of greater than 50 metres from the nearest residences. Study work has confirmed that sound levels from solar inverters approach that of background levels at a distance of around 50 metres. Existing features such as fencing and trees, along with existing sources of ambient noise (e.g., traffic on Cockburn Rd) are expected to mitigate this further.
(See Site Management Plan Section 10.8)
7.12 Will the solar farm create an increase in temperatures or a bushfire risk?
Some heating of the panels themselves will occur as they are dark in colour. Any resulting heating of the air around the panel will fully dissipate or be indiscernible more than approximately one metre away from the panels.
Solar farm infrastructure will be constructed from non-combustible materials. Electrical infrastructure will be housed within enclosures with venting measures which will minimise the accumulation of gas and spark suppression measures will be implemented to control ignition sources. An internal access route will also surround the site providing a defensible setback. The site has been considered under State Planning Policy3.7 Planning in Bushfire Prone Areas and may require a bushfire management plan to be prepared.
7.13 Is Epuron aware that unexploded ordinance (UXO) has been found on the site and how will this be managed?
Generally the aim is to cause minimal disturbance to the site during construction. In certain areas minor ground disturbance is proposed. Where this is proposed the ground will require investigation to minimise the risk of disturbing potentially hazardous material including UXO. See Site Management Plan Sections 7.1 and 7.2 for protocols. During operation there will be no disturbance to the site and so there will be no greater risk from UXO than currently exists.
7.14 Are there any disease clusters associated with the landfill site?
The Development Application has been referred to Department of Water and Environment Regulation (DWER) as part of the assessment process. DWER will confer with Department of Health WA (DoH WA) toxicologists as part of their assessment. Any health concerns relating to the tip site will be included in the response from DWER.
7.15 Are the salt laden sea breezes likely to have a corrosive effect on structures? What's Epuron doing anything to mitigate this?
The project will be designed for a minimum 25-year useful life and this will take the effect of air corrosion into account. Numerous solar farms (and structures in general) have been constructed in similar environments. Solar panels are resistant to corrosion and structures incorporate materials that are similarly resistant, such as anodized aluminium.
8 Solar Farm Business Plan
8.1 What’s a business plan?
Under the Local Government Act (1995) the City is required to prepare and seek community input on a business plan for a major land transaction. The business plan deals with the commercial aspects of the land transaction in this case a lease and the conditions of the lease. The business plan will be advertised for 6 weeks closing 21 June 2018.
8.2 Will the land be transferred to Epuron?
9 Approvals and conditions of approval
The development of the Solar Farm requires the following approvals:
- Planning approval - The City of Fremantle must approve the use of the land for the purpose of a solar farm. This has been approved by the City subject to a number of conditions including environmental conditions.
- Environmental approval – DWER requires further assessment and approval of site management plans for any proposed change of use of the site. DWER approval or not is based on the recommendations of an independent Contaminated Sites Auditor. Draft site management plans are currently being assessed and will required amendment before the Auditor makes a recommendation.
- Business plan – Under the Local Government Act (1995), the City is required to prepare a Business Plan for a major land transaction (in this case the lease) and advertise the Business Plan (seek community input ) before finalising terms and signing the lease.
- DWER approval of the lease – As a registered contaminated site, DWER must approve the lease. DWER is likely to do this only if their environmental conditions are/can be met.
- Connections – Epuron must seek permission form Western Power to connect to the grid. They must connect to the grid if they are to sell the power they generate to a power retailer or any other buyer which is not an immediate neighbour.
9.2 The City has given the project planning approval. Are there any other checks and balances are in place?
Planning approval for the solar farm was granted by the City of Fremantle's Planning Committee in April. Planning approval does not give Epuron the ability to immediately go ahead with development. There are a number of conditions which must be satisfied prior to development commencing.
One of the conditions set by the City and the DWER requires preparation of a Site Management Plan (SMP) which must be reviewed and approved by a qualified (independent) Contaminated Sites Auditor.
The City will not clear any of the conditions unless it has advice from the DWER and the independent accredited Contaminated Sites Auditor that the proposed details of works are satisfactory. This approval will be documented in a Mandatory Auditor’s Report.
The City will not approve construction and cannot execute the lease until the Auditor, DWER and the City are satisfied with the SMP.
As stated by the Mayor at the council meeting on 18 April 2018: 'The City is not going to let development proceed unless it is satisfied it is safe to do so'.
9.3 Why wasn’t the project referred to the EPA?
The City and Epuron did not consider the project warranted referral to the EPA because it is already controlled and managed under the Contaminated Sites Act and the Solar Farm proposal will cause minimal disturbance to the site.
10.1 Where to from here?
The Development Approval is subject to a number of conditions. Epuron will need to revise its draft SMP and prepare a Construction Management Plan (CMP) in accordance with the Auditor’s requirements and meet the City’s conditions. The revised documents will be made available to the public and a briefing will be held prior to commencement of construction.
Subject to feedback on the Business Plan, details of the lease will be finalised ready for signing. In addition, the DWER must approve the lease and will not do so unless it is satisfied with the plans for site management.
10.2 How will Epuron be held to account for the site management conditions?
Compliance with site management conditions is achieved through a number of mechanisms:
- The SMP defines how the site is to be managed or monitored to ensure the risks from contamination remain at an acceptable level. For DWER to endorse the SMP, this will require a statement from Epuron acknowledging awareness of the SMP, agreeing to its content and agreeing to abide by it.
- The development approval contains conditions which require separate approvals by the City as described in other parts of these FAQs including matters relating to earthworks, remediation (if required), ongoing management and approved construction management plan to be adhered to throughout the construction of the new development to the satisfaction of the Chief Executive Officer, City of Fremantle.
Epuron and its contractors must comply with all conditions or work will be stopped.
10.3 When will it be finished?
Once environmental approvals are in place and the City has agreed the terms of the lease, Epuron can commence construction. Development is likely to be completed and the solar farm operational by late 2019.
10.4 Who will manage the site before approvals are issued?
With or without a solar farm, the City will continue monitoring and management activities in accordance with its obligations as a landowner under the Contaminated Sites Act.