28 May, 2024

Powered up anger over development

Somerset residents are being urged to fasttrack submissions over a proposed Hazeldean battery storage facility by the end of this week (May 31) as anger about the project grows.

Residents gathered in Yowie Park on May 26 to discuss how to fight the development proposal.
Residents gathered in Yowie Park on May 26 to discuss how to fight the development proposal.

Dozens of concerned residents came together last Sunday following frustration at the results of a ‘drop-in’ information session held by energy storage company, Enervest, in Kilcoy last Tuesday.

Member for Nanango, Deb Frecklington, urged people to lodge submissions, adding that energy companies coming into regional communities needed to do more to “earn their social licence”.

Enervest has lodged a development application with Somerset Council seeking approval to build a battery energy storage system (BESS) on Esk Kilcoy Rd, Hazeldean.

A BESS takes electricity from the grid in low demand periods and feeds back into the grid during high demand periods.

It will have a battery storage capacity of up to 800MW/1,600MWh comprising approximately 256 inverters and 512 battery enclosures.

There is also a proposal for a substation to be located adjacent to the 275kV transmission line which transects the site, with connections to the transmission network via above ground transmission lines.

Public submissions were due to close on May 31, but residents were expressing frustration that they were still in the dark about the project.

The company held an information drop-in session last week to answer community questions.

Over 70 locals attended the session, but many left feeling dissatisfied with the outcome, stating the format wasn’t conducive to answering relevant questions.

“They just weren’t really answering our questions,” one resident said.

Another added: “It was about as helpful as a fish in the desert.” As a result of this dissatisfaction, locals held their own meeting in Yowie Park on Sunday, May 26, to discuss their options, including petitioning local and state government members.

They have also come together to create the Facebook group “Stop the battery storage development in Hazeldean”, which already has nearly 200 members.

Concerns include potential environmental damage to waterways, as well as fire and toxic fumes if the site was to burn.

“If this thing catches fi re, all the fumes and toxins will run straight into Somerset Dam and contaminate the entire region’s water system,” a resident said at the meeting.

“It’s a threat to all of Brisbane, not just us.”

“Why can’t they build this outside of the catchment area,” another resident enquired.

The question “why Kilcoy and why this location” was echoed during the information session and resident meeting, with many angered that the location - rural zoned - was being considered.

The proposed site is located between New Country Creek Road Estate and Kookaburra Crescent Estate and borders many residential properties.

Another sentiment shared by residents during both meetings is the frustration with the perceived lack of transparency and short notice for submissions.

“They just aren’t being truthful with us” was a phrase repeated multiple times across both meetings.

One of the residents has claimed to have asked for an extension on the submission deadline, arguing the timeframe of three weeks wasn’t big enough considering the business had planned this for months, but was told the submission date is “set in stone”.

Mrs Frecklington said she had been approached by residents and told The Sentinel: “Communities like Hazeldean need to be respected because the concerns are legitimate”.

“I would really like to thank the local residents who contacted me with concerns about the proposed battery storage project at Hazeldean,” she added.

“Up until then, I had not been informed about the development and like everyone else in the community have been left in the dark, which is extremely disappointing.

“I have been encouraging anyone with concerns to make a submission to Council, which I understand will close on 31 May.”

Mrs Frecklington added that there was growing frustration from regional people stemming from the negative impacts of these types of projects.

“Regional communities are carrying the burden of these renewable energy projects for our coastal and city cousins,” she said.

“The proponent companies must do much better to earn their social licence.”

A spokesperson for the Hazeldean Battery Storage Project said the company respects and is listening to resident concerns.

They said they were continuing to engage with the community.

“The proposed project is still in its early stages and there will be ample opportunity for the community to be involved and consulted”, the spokesperson said.

“We had strong interest at the information session and we thank everyone who showed a constructive interest in the proposed project.”

The spokesperson said that Enervest was now “reflecting on the feedback received” at last week’s drop-in meeting “to develop a project that provides strong local investment and prioritises safety for the local community”.

In regards to some of the worries raised by residents, the risk of a fire and toxic fumes and waste, the spokesperson said that the safety of community and workers was a priority.

“We will work with the Rural Fire Service to ensure site design and preparedness meet community and RFS expectations,” the spokesperson said.

“State and federal laws ensure minimum environmental disturbance, including containment of flood waters.

“The site is well positioned to support a reliable energy system, while minimising environmental, visual and other disturbance.”

Enervest said the Hazeldean site had been chose because it was located under an existing high voltage transmission line.

“Batteries such as the proposed Hazeldean project draw their energy from the grid at times when there is ample supply, such as the middle of the day”, the spokesperson said.

“The site was selected in part due to the ability to largely screen the development from the road, even before any landscaping is planted.

“The proposed project also sits underneath an existing high voltage transmission line.”

Enervest emphasised its desire to support the community by focusing on the benefits it can bring to the region.

“We are excited to bring investment to the region to support the reliable and affordable supply of electricity, and a long-term community benefit fund to strengthen local infrastructure, services, and community initiatives”, the spokesperson said.

“We also look forward to discussing how a community benefit fund can best strengthen the local community and its services.

“We are designing a community benefit program to ensure significant and long-term investment in community infrastructure and initiatives.

“We will refine our engagement in response to community needs, while ensuring the safety of all who attend.

We also encourage any interested community members to provide feedback via Council and the project’s website.”

Somerset Regional Council Director of Planning and Development, Luke Hannan, urged residents to visit Council’s website and search for DA24212 (under the ‘Our Services’ tab/ e-services section) to learn more about the proposed development.

“Council would consider any request to hear from residents during the public notification period,” he said.

“The development application will be assessed in accordance with the requirements prescribed in the State Government’s Planning Act 2016.

“The current public notification period is a statutory requirement and carried out in parallel with Council’s assessment of the proposed development.”

Mr Hannan said Council cannot indicate support for or against the proposed development, given it’s still in the assessment stage.

“Public safety and environmental management are part of Council’s assessment and consideration,” he said.

Residents have until May 31 to make submissions to Somerset Regional Council using application reference: DA24212.

Any request should be formally addressed to the Chief Executive Officer.

Email submissions to mail@ or mail PO Box 117, Esk 4312.

Design of what Hazeldean BESS could look like.
Design of what Hazeldean BESS could look like.
The view from property which overlooks proposed site.
The view from property which overlooks proposed site.

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