Plans for 100MW solar farm in south-west W.A. clear early hurdle

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Plans to build 100MW solar farm in Western Australia’s Harvey Shire win local council backing to allow the project to be advertised for public comment.

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Plans to build a 100MW solar farm south of Perth in Western Australia’s Harvey Shire have been set in motion, with local council voting to allow the project to be advertised for public comment.

The $150 million Benger Solar Farm is being proposed for development by Melbourne-based outfit South Energy, on around 187 hectares of farmland between Brunswick and Harvey, in the state’s south west.

The West Australian reported on Friday that a report to council had recommended a further report be provided to the council at the conclusion of the advertising period, regardless if whether or not any public submissions were received.

So far, South Energy company has held community information sessions about the project, and briefings with shire councillors, who have reportedly responded positively to the solar plans.

One of the key points of contention will be the location of the solar farm, which will be sited on “previously intensive agricultural” land. But council has suggested it is open to a mixed-use plan, where livestock were able to graze beneath the solar panels.

“This is a potentially very exciting development for our area,” Shire president Tania Jackson said in comments in July.

“It is good to see the company going through their community consultation process before they submit their plans to council.”

State government might also be supportive of the project, with energy minister Bill Johnston recently noting that the south-west was well suited to accommodate new large-scale renewable projects.

“There’s a lot of electric transmission infrastructure so we can integrate renewable projects here at a lower cost and obviously it gives opportunity for jobs in construction and ongoing maintenance,” Johnston said in comments reported in the Bunbury Mail last month.

South Energy project manager Baifu Du said the proposed Benger Solar Farm would create jobs and boost the local economy, with around 250 jobs expected to be involved in construction of the project.

“The project will resonate with Western Australia’s announced Energy Transformation Target,” Du said.

“It will also contribute to a more reliable electricity network for WA, as some of the ageing conventional coal-fired power station units gradually retire in the coming years.”

The company currently hopes to have the solar farm in operation in 2022, based on the assumption construction will commence in early 2021.

“Several milestones have be to achieved between now and then,” Du said in comments here.

“We need to finalise a planning permit application before submitting it to the Shire of Harvey.

“The planning application is not only to be approved by the local council, but also subject to assessment and approvals by further government agencies.”

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