RES Australia’s plans to build a 183MW wind farm with a 50MW/215MWh big battery near South Australia’s Barossa Valley are edging closer to reality, despite ongoing local opposition to the ambitious project.
South Australia’s State Commission Assessment Panel, which visited the Barossa Valley on Tuesday to meet with locals, has resolved to grant development plan consent to the Twin Creek Wind Farm, subject to planning conditions, reserved matters and advisory notes.
The battery would rank as the biggest in Australia, at least in storage terms. It has less capacity than the Tesla big battery – at 100MW/129MWh – but more storage.
In a report dated May 21, the SCAP said these conditions would be reserved for further assessment, prior to any granting of Development Approval, which was expected to be decided upon within a couple of months.
The project, which would host 51 turbines across various parcels of crop and sheep grazing land, north-east of the township of Kapunda, or around 90km north of Adelaide, has not had an easy time winning over locals.
According to the SCAP report, out of 41 public representations received across the wind farm’s three Council areas, the majority opposed the development and expressed concerns ranging from visual impact, to impact on flora and fauna – and even on human health.
This opposition culminated in a locally sponsored legal bid to have the wind farm reclassified as a Category 3 development, which would have cleared the way to appeal its planning approval.
That case was rejected by the state’s Environment Resources and Development Court, however, as we reported here in March.
Still, opposition to Twin Creek has not subsided, according to the Adelaide Advertiser, which this week reported ongoing concerns among locals about the turbines creating “extra frost,” driving down house values, and disturbing people’s sleep.
Concerns also continue to be raised about the impact the project might have on local populations of pygmy blue tongued lizards and southern hairy-nosed wombats, the paper said.
For its part, RES Australia has already modified the wind farm’s design in line with local concerns, including cutting 40 turbines from its original proposal.
The company has also promised to build its planned infrastructure around habitat for animals such as the lizards and wombats, and set up a protected habitat to offset the development’s impacts.
And then there are the benefits – according to RES, construction of the wind and battery storage facility would create 160 jobs, with eight full-time jobs remaining on completion.
The completed wind farm is expected generate enough energy to power 118,000 homes. And RES has also pledged to create a $50,000 annual annual fund for 25 years for local community investment.
“In addition to the broader ‘clean’ energy advantages, a renewable power development has the potential to deliver economic benefits to regional communities (which often rely on two main industries – agriculture and mining), by helping to broaden its economic base and assist in reversing the ongoing trend of employment and population decline,” the SCAP report says.
“Benefits would result from landowners having increased income from land rental for turbines and the use of local contractors and suppliers of goods and services. Flow on effects would arise from servicing the construction work force and, to a lesser extent, the operational workers.
“The proposal aligns with the strategic electricity network priorities of South Australia, especially improving the reliability and security of the electricity grid and putting downward pressure on electricity prices through increased, locally based generation capacity,” the report continues.
“A key policy focus has been the support for proposals that provide both generation and storage capacity and technologies for effective integration with the national electricity grid (and to ensure reliability of supply).”