Neoen Australia has halved the size of the wind power component of its proposed Crystal Brook Energy Park, as it prepares to showcase the potentially world-leading hybrid renewables hub before the State Commission Assessment Panel in South Australia.
The project, which originally proposed the development of 150MW each of wind and solar, plus a 50MW hydrogen “electrolyser”, at Crystal Brook north of Adelaide, goes before the SCAP in Port Pirie on Wednesday and Thursday this week.
Neoen said in a statement on Tuesday that it has cut the number of wind turbines proposed for the project by more “more than 50 per cent” to a total of 26 in direct response to feedback from the local community and Port Pirie Council.
The $500 million project, which has been two years in the development pipeline, has faced ongoing opposition from both of those camps, largely due to the size – “Australia’s tallest” – and placement of the wind turbines, close to the Flinders Ranges.
According to ABC Online, more than 100 Crystal Brook residents are expected to speak out against the project at the two-day panel hearing, off the back of more than 260 community submissions about the project.
And while the fate of the project lies with the South Australia state government, the Port Pirie Council has had its reservations about the project – it voted unanimously in July to seek clarification from Neoen on a number of key development points of the Energy Park, before it would give the project its blessing.
But Neoen – which has been very busy in Australia with numerous large-scale and world-leading hybrid renewables projects, including the hugely successful Tesla big battery at the Hornsdale wind farm, also in SA – is hopeful of making progress with both SCAP and locals this week.
In a statement on Tuesday, the company noted that the Crystal Brook Energy Park represented a potential investment of $500 million in South Australia; would create over 200 jobs during construction and around a dozen permanent jobs during operation.
“The Crystal Brook Energy Park we are presenting this week is the result of an unprecedented level of community engagement,” said managing director of Neoen Australia, Franck Woitiez.
“In direct response to feedback from the local community and Port Pirie Council, Neoen has reduced the number of wind turbines proposed by more than 50 per cent to ensure a generous development buffer between the project and the Flinders Ranges.
Neoen also plans to create an $80,000-per-year Community Fund on completion of the project, to be allocated by local community leaders to other community projects that drive environmental and social change.
“Neoen is extremely proud of the nearby Hornsdale Power Reserve in Jamestown, which since December last year has been successfully keeping the lights on and cutting electricity prices for South Australians,” Woitiez said.
“Crystal Brook is the natural next step, as one of the first and largest projects in the world to integrate wind, solar and storage to provide dependable, dispatchable, baseload renewable power without subsidies.”
It should be noted that the CBEP does enjoy significant community support, too. As local resident David Clarke wrote on RE in July, a Fairfax poll gauging local feeling for the development showed an 83 per cent approval rating.
And as pointed out by Clarke – who is, himself, a vocal supporter of the hub, despite living 5km from its proposed site – South Australia’s relatively new Liberal government appears to be as well disposed to renewable energy as the previous Labor government.
Before being defeated at March state election, Labor had promised to provide a $1 million grant to help Neoen complete its feasibility study for hydrogen hub, and then provide a further $4 million grant, and a $20 million loan should the $500 million project go ahead.