$220m Benger solar farm approved, to create 200 jobs

Nicolette BarbasHarvey-Waroona Reporter

The Shire of Harvey is a step closer to having the State’s second major solar farm following planning approval by the Joint Development Assessment Panel.

After extensive research, community consultation and council meetings, approval for the Benger Solar Farm was given the green light on Thursday.

The $200 million farm is expected to boost the Harvey economy, creating more than 200 local jobs in the first 12 to 18 months.

Harvey shire president Paul Gillett believes the project will boost tourism in the region.

“There will be a greater necessity for an ongoing workforce and new businesses to be opened to satisfy the increased population demand during the development, construction and operational phases of the solar farm,” Cr Gillett said.

We may also see an increase in tourism from visitors that are interested in viewing the new solar farm and school tours are welcome to visit the Shire of Harvey to view the solar farm.

Paul Gillett

Although the approval marks a significant step for east coast-based company South Energy, project manager Baifulaqi Du said there was still a lot to be done.

“Before construction on the project commences we are required to do a grid connection study,” Mr Du said.

“As always, we will be striving to work closely with different key stakeholders including immediate neighbours, local community, and the Shire of Harvey to seek their inputs where appropriate.

It is expected that hundreds of jobs will be created during construction of the project, and by working with the prospective contractor, we will endeavour to source all of the jobs locally where possible.

Baifulaqi Du

Neighbour to the property, Peter Humble, has raised concerns about the over-production of solar projects.

“Any approval should first be subject to the company proving they can sell the power as we feel that is a big issue solar farm owners are facing,” Mr Humble said.

“The power suppliers are backing away from these agreements because of the instability it is causing and the over production of electricity with solar farms frequently popping up and it is a real concern.”

Construction on the 187ha of agricultural land is due to start at the end of 2020 with operations estimated to begin in the following year.

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