Bushfire Risk and Renewables – Musket Flat Power Reserve

Bushland and grassland close to the facility

Umwelt was engaged by leading renewable energy company Neoen to prepare a Bushfire Risk Assessment and Management Plan for the Musket Flat Power Reserve, a utility-scale load stabilisation battery near Maryborough, Queensland. The batteries will have a power capacity up to 200 megawatts and will be able to store up to 400 megawatts per hour of energy that can be dispatched as required.

The increasing investment in renewable energy projects has created significant opportunities for regional Australia, both in terms of jobs and access to cheap, reliable power. However, the siting of this infrastructure in vegetated landscapes exposes these projects to the risk of bushfire events. Careful consideration of the risks that bushfire may pose is therefore important.

Quantifying the hazard

Umwelt’s bushfire management staff have previously worked on numerous renewable energy projects and are experienced in adapting AS3959:2018 Construction of Buildings in Bushfire Prone Areas to industrial facilities.

For this project, our ecological assessment team had previously characterised vegetation in the immediate area, allowing the vegetation to be accurately assigned a bushfire fuel rating. When combined with a digital terrain model to determine slope, the potential fire risk to the facility under several scenarios could be estimated.

Incorporating climate change scenarios

The standard approach for Queensland under AS3959 allows for a more moderate assessment of potential fire weather, known as the Fire Danger Index (FDI). This standard FDI was exceeded several times during the previous 2018/19 fire season. In response to CSIRO analysis of future risk, the bushfire modelling used a higher FDI rating to provide a more conservative assessment, preparing the site for potential future increases in severe fire weather.

Protecting critical infrastructure

Once the risk had been defined and minimum protection distances identified, Umwelt’s specialist bushfire protection planners reviewed engineering designs and layouts to develop tailored mitigation measures.

Bushfire mitigation measures included:

  • Incorporating existing fuel free areas and perimeter roads to isolate the facility from grassland fuels, known as the Asset Protection Zone
  • Design of access and egress to facilitate evacuation and emergency vehicle access
  • Advice on emergency response plans specific to energy storage facilities
  • Summary of bushfire protection measures against the State Planning Policy

This project demonstrates our capacity to support bushfire protection for critical infrastructure in a way that manages for future risk in a robust, cost-effective manner.

Planning layout for the site including the Asset Protection Zone to protect the facility and evacuation routes.

To understand how our Bushfire expertise can assist you, please contact Cormac Farrell on 1300 793 267 or cfarrell@umwelt.com.au