ABOVE: McKees Hill residents oppose the Auckram Rd big battery site to be built by Maoneng. The TransGrid station can be seen in the background. Photo: Susanna Freymark
The proposal for a battery at McKees Hill has neighbour against neighbour.
This week 20 residents met on the rise of Auckram Rd outside the new site proposed for the Lismore Battery Energy Storage System (Lismore BESS) to discuss what action they would take to oppose the project.
Cindi Bell said they bought in McKees Hill to retire.
“This is splitting the community and turning neighbours against each other. I don’t know if I want to live here any more,” she said.
Maoneng had released the scoping report for the Auckram Rd 100 megawatt battery site, and the residents felt they were each receiving different information when they had discussions with the company.
At the meeting, they resolved to work together and share information. No matter what.
Paul Munro, who initially opposed the battery when it was proposed for Rogerson Rd, has now given Maoneng an option to lease 1.7ha of his land.
Ray Smith has lived at McKees Hill since 1972 and he lives down the road from Mr Munro.
His main concerns about the battery are the batteries could catch on fire, the visual impact and risk of groundwater contamination.
“The issue is the environmental danger,” Mr Smith said. “If it gets into the groundwater, we are cactus.”
The scoping report stated that the site was “not located within a groundwater vulnerability area”.
Fire could be an issue.
A Tesla big battery in Victoria burned for three days in August this year. That battery is owned by Neoen.
Mr Smith and other residents said Maoneng were not being upfront about their plans. Mr Smith said he had been told there would not be a solar farm on the site but was suspicious of the partnership between Maoneng (40%) with solar panel manufacturer Chint (60%).
Maoneng’s Alex Godina said Chint were not involved in the McKees Hill project.
He said there would be no solar farm.
“We have the option to lease a small portion of the property as has been shown in previous plans and maps,” he said.
“This allows for approx 1.2ha of BESS footprint, with small additional areas on the outside to provide landscaping and screening. This is the only land we can use, and will be only used for BESS infrastructure.”
The scoping report has 69 pages covering the planning and development of the $30 million project.
“I’m not happy with the scoping report, it has holes in it everywhere,” Mr Smith said.
Some residents who wanted to sell their properties said they were being adversely affected by the proposed battery.
Glen Lindop said buyers dropped off when they heard about the battery. His McKees Hill home has been on the market for weeks – which in the current property market is unusual.
“We can’t sell our house, people walk away,” Mr Lindop said.
The battery site is next to the TransGrid substation which means little cabling will be required to feed electricity to and from the battery, so it is an ideal location for Maoneng.
The scoping report discussed the benefits of alternative electricity.
Most of Australia’s electricity comes from coal-fired power stations. Maoneng has five battery projects, three of them are in NSW, to reduce the nation’s reliance on coal.
But many McKees Hill residents don’t want one at McKees Hill.
The next step in the project is a full Environmental Impact Assessment which will include fire and safety, contamination, noise and the visual impact.
Mr Godina said when these documents are published, there is formal community engagement by the State Government.
“At this time everyone will have the full suite of details and assessment to review, give feedback on, and oppose if they wish,” Mr Godina said.
The battery site scoping report is available here – opens in new tab
Contact Maoneng’s Alex Godina for questions, or requests for meetings by email to firstname.lastname@example.org