Athena reveals plans for $450 million Bendemeer Solar Farm

From the Northern Daily Leader on February 14, 2022

A green energy company has revealed plans for a $450 million solar farm about a kilometre and a half from Bendemeer.

The Bendemeer Solar Farm project would just be the first stage of a $900 million wind, solar and battery scheme, the Bendemeer Renewable Energy Hub.

The company’s first plans for the solar element of the project were published by the department of planning industry and environment, on Friday.

Singapore-based Athena Energy Holdings plans to install about 490,000 solar panels on a 520-hectare site about 1.5 kilometres east of Bendemeer. The plot of land is a field that has been used for cropping and grazing. The project would be clearly visible from the Oxley Highway.

If approved, the 210 MW solar project would be able to power about 75,000 average Australian homes, employ 250 people during the construction phase and as many as 10 during operation.

It would also include 200 MW of energy storage.

“Developing the solar energy resource identified at the site would generate significant investment in the broader Tamworth Local Government Area and would be compatible with existing agricultural activities,” the company said, in its scoping report.

Uniquely, landholders in the Bendemeer area developed the beginnings of an idea for the project, before approaching green energy companies to develop it.

Athena, which will build and operate the project, will pay $850 per megawatt into a community benefit fund every year managed for the community to fund local projects and other upgrades.

Local residents can buy shares in the wind section of the project to win a cut of the profits.

The solar scheme will be a so-called “agrivoltaic” system, which means the land it covers can still be farmed.

Athena plans to submit plans to build 70 wind turbines at a later date, and process both projects simultaneously.

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