The dust had barely settled from Friday’s announcement that the Mid North would become home to the world’s biggest battery when South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill and Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis visited Jamestown.
About 40 locals attended a community meeting with the two ministers at Jamestown Bowling Club on Sunday, before the ministers ventured out to the Hornsdale Wind Farm for a tour of the facility with Neoen and Tesla representatives.
Northern Areas Council mayor Denis Clark hosted the community luncheon and said that the battery would provide benefits for the entire region.
“It is very good to have the battery near Jamestown; it is not just good for Jamestown but it is good for our whole region,” Mr Clark said.
“The tourism side offers potential because people will want to go and have a look. While they are here they will grab some fuel, some food and stay the night and the flow-on effect is great.”
While he said Jamestown was in ‘good shape’, a focus on maximising the opportunities created by the battery was crucial.
“We don’t want to miss any opportunities,” he said.
“There needs to be some finances put towards marketing so that it can be explored.
“If there is any assistance that is available (from the state government) it would be greatly appreciated and I think unless it is given it may not grow.”
The mayor also said that a renewed focus on local road and hospital maintenance should be included in future plans following the battery announcement.
“It has been noted that there has been a lack of maintenance on our rural and regional hospitals,” he said.
“I think this is the perfect opportunity for that to be sorted out so that the people who do come here have the facilities.”
Despite admitting that there had been “very little” community consultation undertaken by the state government, Neoen and Tesla, he was confident the battery would have tourism benefits.
“As Australians, we’re inquisitive – if there is something new, people will go and look at it,” he said.
Premier Weatherill said that the project would have many benefits for the region and the state, including regional tourism.
“This will become a very important part of the way in which South Australian Tourism Commission markets South Australia,” Mr Weatherill said.
“It will help showcase this region to the world.”
He confirmed that contractor Consolidated Power Projects were set to expand their workforce by “a couple of dozen” to complete the battery installation.
He said battery storage would help unlock more renewable energy projects across the state.
“We were getting close to saturation point in relation to renewable energy projects,” he said.
“A number of them had stalled because of the confusion that was created around the national renewable energy target.
“What batteries do is provide the option of new solar projects, new wind farms because we can now store excess energy.
“At many levels this represents a massive job creation opportunity for our state.”
The Premier was confident that the battery storage system would both stabilise the electricity grid and provide cheaper prices for consumers.
“The way in which this battery will work is that it will provide services all-year round,” he said.
“What we know is that we all pay about $48 million a year for ancillary services, which stabilise the network.
“We will now have the capacity to do that at much lower costs, so any of the benefits will be passed back directly to South Australia consumers.”
He said that the state government’s $40 million Fund My Neighbourhood initiative would be available to Jamestown to apply for civic upgrades.
Neoen Operations Manager Laurent Francisci described the battery installation in less than 100 days as “a great challenge”.
“We have great support from the South Australian government, Tesla and Neoen, Consolidated Power Projects, as well as government agencies Australian Energy Market Operation and Essential Services Commission of South Australia, who are working together to get the project completed,” Mr Francisci said.
“I believe that providing network security is going to incentivise further investment in renewable energy generators.”
Despite agreeing that community consultation and support were crucial to wind farm infrastructure projects, he would not be drawn on the impact that the battery storage system agreement would have on Neoen’s proposed plan to develop a wind farm and energy park at Beetaloo Valley.
“There is no connection (between the two projects), he said.
“We need to keep developing and working with communities to develop our projects and explain the positive outcomes. We will keep doing that across the state.”
The operations manager said that he had “no information” on reports that Neoen had postponed a development application for the project to the Development Assessment Commission by 12 months.