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RE-VOLT: Residents riled over big battery at McKees Hill

McKees Hill residents say No to battery in their backyard

by Susanna Freymark, 02/10/2021, 4 min read

A PROPOSAL to build a large battery to store excess energy from the grid prompted 80 residents to attend an information session at McKees Hill Hall on Wednesday evening.

The mood in the hall was tense as Maoneng’s director for Australia Allison Hawke faced a torrent of questions from residents who said they had been kept in the dark about the proposal.

A letter was sent to residents from Maoneng stating that the company's Lismore BESS Land Holding Company Pty Ltd would lodge a planning permit application for a 100MW battery energy storage system project at 1348 Bruxner Highway, McKees Hill.

Many residents said they had not received the letter.

Maoneng is completing site environmental studies and intends to lodge its application with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment this year.

“Lismore is one of six sites we’re considering,” Ms Hawke said.

A 30MW battery in Ballarat, Victoria. The one proposed for McKees Hill will be three times this size.

The defining aspect for Maoneng was to be close to a high voltage transmission substation. The proposed project is near TransGrid’s Lismore substation to enable it to connect into the national electricity network.

Electricity downloaded into the batteries when excess energy is available on the grid would be released in times of high demand on the grid.

But local residents and farmers want questions answered about the size of the project and fire and flood risks at the facility.

Many were concerned about the visual and noise impact of the project on homes and the potential to reduce the value of their properties.

James Smith addressed the meeting with a list of questions from locals.

The company had talked of a solar farm in its first letter to residents, he said.

That was a mistake, Ms Hawke said.

Eighty residents attended an information evening about a proposed battery at McKees Hill Hall last Wednesday. Photo: Susanna Freymark

Power lines in and out of the site would be underground and the company is in talks with TransGrid about the construction and operation of the battery.

Mr Smith asked about the safety of the lithium-ion batteries igniting or being at risk from a grassfire.

“The batteries are subjected to a rigorous assessment and subject to hazard assessment. They are monitored remotely 24/7,” Ms Hawke said.

Ms Hawke said they would mitigate the dust factor during construction at the site and once it was completed, traffic on the road would be minimal as the batteries would be monitored remotely.

Security fencing will be put around the facility. This is typically a chain mesh fence 2m tall and includes a security alarm system.

The nearest home is 200m from the battery site.

Ms Hawke said there was no clear indication yet of how the batteries would be disposed of or recycled at the end of their life.

The site will require some excavation as it is on a slope and the company will use native plants to screen the shipping containers housing the batteries.

Mr Smith said 16 homes would be affected by buzzing noise from the site.

When a farmer brought up the issue of flooding in the area, Ms Hawke said the containers were not waterproof but were designed to “not release keep toxic fumes into the environment”.

Cindy Bell said her biggest concern was the company had clearly stated there would be no compensation for the reduction in value of nearby properties.

“We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she said. “My husband is retiring, and this jeopardises our future.”

Others are concerned about the visual impact of the batteries that will be in 20–40 shipping containers.

Christina Turcato and Jason Crane live on the other side of the highway but will see the battery from their home. “We spend every afternoon in the garden and that’s what we’ll be looking at,” she said.

One woman spoke above the voices.

“What about the emotional toll on us? What about us?”

By the end of the meeting there were more questions than answers. Ms Hawke promised the crowd she would get back to them on all their questions.

Allison Hawke, Peter Pan and Will McGrane represented Maoneng at the McKees Hill Hall meeting. Photo: Susanna Freymark

The property proposed for the battery has not been bought by Maoneng.

There were suggestions to locate the battery in a state forest where it wouldn’t bother people. Or in an industrial estate for the same reason.

Maoneng’s proposal will go on exhibition when its studies are completed.

The project falls under Lismore Council.

For more information contact Allison Hawke - Director of Development on 0431 381 875  or email Allison.hawke@maoneng.co)

WHO IS MAONENG?

Maoneng is a renewable energy company formed 10 years ago by two directors born in Shanghai who grew up in Australia. Its projects include a solar farm at Sunraysia, a 200MW battery at Balranald nearing completion and the Mugga Lane solar farm in NSW – for more, go to maoneng.co