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Port Augusta
Port Pirie
And then there's Whyalla
Renewable energy growth
A tale of three towns

A Tale of Two (or Three) Cities
(and sundry towns)

Port Pirie and Port Augusta are two cities on the northern part of Spencer Gulf in South Australia.

Port Augusta has a council that is very progressive and positive about renewable energy development. Consequently they have succeeded in attracting more than five billion dollars of private investment proposals.

Port Pirie has a council that tends to be anti-environment and negative about renewable energy. Consequently they have only attracted a tiny fraction of the development that Port Augusta has seen.

The third upper Spencer Gulf city, Whyalla, has more than 25 times the value of renewable energy projects 'on the go' than Port Pirie Council is supporting.

This page was written 2018/06/29, modified 2018/07/17
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David K. Clarke) – ©

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Port Augusta

Bungala Solar Farm, Port Augusta
This solar farm, under construction when I photographed it, is well on its way toward being the biggest in Australia
In late June 2018 Port Augusta Mayor, Sam Johnson, released a video discussing 13 renewable energy projects involving five billion dollars of private investment in the vicinity of the city.

There are wind farms, solar PV farms, a huge proposed solar thermal power station with energy storage, several pumped hydro energy storage schemes and a solar powered greenhouse producing hundreds of tonnes of tomatoes each year that uses saline water; all cutting-edge technology stuff.

This is what can be achieved in the upper Spencer Gulf region of South Australia with the sustainable energy resources available to us.

Also see Northern South Australia's Renewable Energy.


Port Pirie

At the time of writing there were two renewable energy projects proposed in the area controlled by the Port Pirie Regional Council: the very innovative Crystal Brook Energy Park (CBEP) that will combine wind power, solar PV, a battery and possibly a hydrogen production facility, and the Renew Power Group's 5 MW solar farm on Abattoirs Road just south of the city. The former has an estimated capital cost of $350 million the latter was expected to cost around $10 million. The council had unanimously voted to oppose the CBEP but had approved the small solar farm.

At the same time that the Port Augusta Council had $5,000,000,000 worth of renewable energy projects on their books, the Port Pirie Council chose to limit their renewables to $10,000,000; that is one five-hundredth, or 0.2% as much as Port Augusta.

Both cities have a strong need for employment, Port Pirie is very heavily reliant on a smelter, it is the only big employer in the city.

So we need to ask why Port Augusta has so much renewable energy development on the horizon while Port Pirie has practically nothing?

The ridge north of Hughs Gap in the Port Pirie Regional Council district
Turbine site
This ridge, just north of Hughs Gap, is an ideal site for a wind farm, there are no houses and the land is used for farming and grazing; but it was zoned by Council as not suitable for wind farm development.
Photo 2017/05/25

Port Augusta Council has done all it can to encourage renewable energy development.

The zoning that Pirie Council has put in place discourages renewable energy development. An earlier wind farm was proposed for the area shown in the above photo. A part of the CBEP was originally also to be in the same area; Neoen, the proponents of the Energy Park, amended their proposal to try to fit in with the council's restrictive zoning regulations, but the council still opposed the development.

Another factor that might have been involved in Council's opposition could be that the councillors were taken in by the misinformation spread by the dishonest opponents.

Mixed relationship

I should disclose that I have a house in Crystal Brook that will be within five kilometres of the wind farm, I have no financial interest in the wind farm and I've had a variable relationship with the Pirie Council. At one time they threatened me with a $700 fine for every feral pepper tree I killed along the brook at Bowman Park, even though the trees were in plague proportion and were crowding-out the native trees and they had an unwritten policy of removing feral pepper trees where possible.

The Port Pirie Council's attitude to environmental matters was put on display when they destroyed remnant roadside vegetation at Crystal Brook in contravention of their own development plan. I objected strenuously to that action.

Plainly I support the CBEP, they don't. I have written another page on this site suggesting that we need a progressive council in Port Pirie.

On the other hand they have given me permission to place the rubbish I pick up from roadsides in the town bins and they have recently agreed to deliver a load of mulch at my request to the Bowman Park garden at no cost to me or the Bowman Park Committee.


And then there's Whyalla

There are three cities on northern Spencer Gulf; Whyalla is the third. Like Port Augusta, but unlike Port Pirie, Whyalla is also very pro-renewable energy. A hint of this can be read from a Whyalla City Council posting and much more can be found with an Internet search using terms such as 'renewables', 'solar', 'pumped hydro' and 'battery'.

On 2018/07/16 I had an email from Samantha Bowman, Manager Environmental Health and Regulatory Services of the Whyalla City Council. She wrote "We currently have 5 different companies with either proposed or actual development of renewable energy projects on the go within Whyalla. Four of these projects have a combined estimated value of $250+ million dollars."

That is more than 25 times the value of renewable energy developments that have had support from Port Pirie Regional Council.

Renewable energy is growing hugely (elsewhere than Port Pirie)

Renewable energy in Oz
Graph credit: The Australia Institute
The graph on the right was published by The Australia Institute in its Climate and Energy National Energy Emissions Audit of July 2018.

It shows that total renewable energy generation share in Australia has gone from under 7% to nearly 18% in the ten years to the end of June 2018.

Wind power is also undergoing a growth spurt at the time this graph was produced, there were then 18 wind farms with a total of 3.2 GW of installed capacity under construction in Australia. When in operation these wind farms could be expected to increase the amount of wind power generation by 68%.

It seems that the Port Pirie Regional Council wants no part of this entirely positive growth in renewable energy.


A tale of three towns

Snowtown, Jamestown and Crystal Brook are all right in South Australia's Mid North region which is where most of the state's renewable energy is. I have a house in Crystal Brook. It happens that Sarah Laurie, who for a few years spread the belief that wind turbines make people ill, also lives near Crystal Brook.

The Snowtown Wind Farm, a little to the south of the Pirie Regional Council area, is the most energy-productive wind farm in Australia at the time of writing. I went to the sod-turning ceremony at the beginning of the building of the second stage of Snowtown Wind Farm; the mayor of that district council (Wakefield Plains) said that "there had been no negativity" in the district about the project. I happened to serve on a Lions barbecue at Clare with a lady from Snowtown; she said the "the wind farm was the best thing ever to happen to Snowtown".

Several wind farms have been built around Jamestown north-east of the Pirie Council district. The local people there seem to have recognised that the development has been great for the district. I have not heard of negativity in the Jamestown area.

Yet at Crystal Brook there has been a vocal negative group. You'd have to wonder why. Is it because of a few people spreading lies and frightening others? The fallacy that wind farms are linked to ill health has not been a major factor in the opposition to the Crystal Brook Energy Park.

Related pages

On this site

Crystal Brook Energy Park Supporters
Selfishness or altruism?
Let's have a progressive Port Pirie
Mid-North SA leading Australia in renewable energy
Northern SA's renewabe energy
A green or a black future, renewables or coal?
Why I support the local wind farm
Why support wind power?
To oppose renewables is to support coal
Killer coal
Wind turbine noise
Wind farms and land values
Wind energy opposition
South Australia's great success in adopting renewable energy
A letter to my great-grandchildren
About me


Renewable energy in Australia
Northern South Australia – leading Australia in renewable energy