From the Northern Daily Leader on June 4, 2021
Bendemeer is set to be home to an enormous $900 million solar, wind and battery power project, one of the largest hybrid renewable power projects in the country.
The thousand-strong workforce for the Bendemeer Renewable Energy Hub is set to dwarf the population of the community.
That’s according Paul Brenchley, General Manager of the Brenchley Group of about 40 landowners that inked an agreement over their land with Singapore-based Athena Holdings this week, with regard to the 300MW solar element of the scheme.
“Between the solar and the wind, the two projects, there’s about 1200 to 1300 people employed. That’s about three times the size of Bendemeer,” he said.
“It’s a hybrid project, meaning that it’s significantly solar and significantly wind and we tack on the battery onto that as well. It’s a hybrid project and from what we understand it’s possibly one of the largest in the country.”
The landholders’ group had learned the lessons of Europe and America and negotiated to make sure the community would get its fair share of the benefits of the development.
“Australia dropped the ball with the whole mining thing I believe. The mining companies got rich and the communities got a cute road and a couple of computers and that kind of nonsense, but they never really benefited big time from those sort of projects,” he said.
“So we’ve negotiated these projects with those things in mind.”
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 project will likely employ about 50 or 60 staff full time after construction is finished.
If the project wins approval, the solar element of the power project should be under construction next year, he said. It’s anticipated to produce its first power in two years’ time.
The solar scheme will be a so-called “agrivoltaic” system, which means the land it covers can still be farmed.
“It may even increase our stocking rate as far as sheep goes,” he said.
“It will certainly improve our pastures.”
Athena CEO Alan Yau said the solar project would have the capacity to juice about 125,000 average households every year.
“This project would provide a solid platform for long-term sustainable impact to communities in the Bendemeer region with substantial positive commercial outcome,” he said.
“Athena is deeply honoured to be doing our part to support the Bendemeer community and for a more sustainable environment for Australians. We look forward to increasing our investment and growing our portfolio in Australia.”
The wind section of the project will have about 380MW of capacity, and the scheme will also have about two or three hours of battery storage capacity.