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Low motorway bridges defeat Bluescope’s plans to make wind towers at Port Kembla

Bluescope has dumped a key plank of its $217 million Port Kembla expansion, after realising wind turbine parts made on site would not fit under bridges crossing the M1 motorway.

Along with plans to build turbine parts on site, the steel giant has also axed a number of jobs it promised would come with the expansion, from 300 to to 95 construction jobs and 14 ongoing roles.

In its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Bluescope said it would still provide plate steel for wind turbine manufacturing at its Advanced Steel Manufacturing Precinct, after advice from Transport for NSW (TfNSW) indicated there was little chance of raising bridges to cater for the new industry. 

Princes Highway bridge near Wollongong.

Without the wind tower manufacturing hub, the value of the precinct has now been cut from between $212 million and $250 million, to $206 million.

The change in plans shows how challenging establishing a renewable energy manufacturing base can be, with details such as low-hanging bridges and narrow residential streets creating hurdles.

“There are just some restrictions from a road bridge infrastructure perspective that make it difficult for the fabrication of wind towers to occur in this region,” said BlueScope CEO Mark Vassella in comments reported by news media.

“Physically you can’t transport the wind towers because of the size of them and get them under existing bridge infrastructure.”

Bluescope has known for some time that its wind manufacturing plan would be defeated by bridges. 

The NSW Ports 40-year plan outlined in June the problem: bridge heights over the Princes Highway are between 5 metres and 5.4m, but wind tower diameters are expanding from 4.5m to 5.5m and 6.5m.

TfNSW met with the company last year and said in its submission on the project that Corrimal St and Bourke St were not suitable

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