Councillors and unhappy residents heard the latest favourable “spin” on a proposed $500 million wind farm.
But the project slated for a site near Crystal Brook was the subject of startling revelations at Port Pirie Regional Council on Wednesday.
It was stated that wind farms were neither a “compliant nor non-compliant” development in a zone above the Morgan-Whyalla pipeline along the foothills of the Flinders Ranges.
And it was also revealed that the council development plan was put together before the advent of wind farms.
On top of this, it became plain at the meeting and afterwards in discussion with some of about 30 Beetaloo Valley residents that the final decision on the project will rest with the state’s Development Assessment Commission, not the council.
To further complicate issues, the residents said the Statewide Wind Farms Development Plan Amendment for the Upper Mid North and Lower Flinders Ranges stated that this was an area “in which wind farms are not explicitly envisaged”.
Resident John Birrell said the developers were “pushing the boundaries with their interpretation”.
Another resident, Northern Areas Council’s Cr Sue Scarman said the council’s reaction to a presentation by developer Neoen Australia had been “encouraging”.
Garth Heron, head of wind development with the company, said plans were changing after feedback from residents.
“We have yet to finalise … we think we are getting closer to a better answer,” he told councillors.
He said the company’s planning advice was that “there is nothing explicit to prohibit wind turbines in the zone we are proposing”.'
Cr Kendall Jackson said the council’s development plan for the zone preferred the “natural character of the ranges”.
She said she supported renewable energy, but queried how the company hoped to gain permission from the state government in the face of the council’s development plan.
Cr Mick Hopgood asked the company representatives whether the project could be built elsewhere in South Australia.
Mr Heron replied that the Crystal Brook site was “top of our list for SA”.
“There are all kinds of things that influence where you can build projects like this, but the grid is a big part of that,” he said.
To Cr Joe Paparella, Mr Heron said the battery in the proposed energy park could supply 18 percent of the state’s households for four hours in a blackout.
He said Tesla technology was likely to be used in the lithium-iron battery installation.
When Premier Jay Weatherill was in Port Pirie for a Country Cabinet meeting, he took the middle ground regarding the merits of the proposal.
“Wind farms are very much a part of the Mid North and we expect them to be a part of the future, but they do need to be in the right place and there needs to be appropriate development assessment,” he said.
“We will let the process deal with that, but you do need to balance landscape protection with the imperatives around wind farms so I hope a wise decision is made.”