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

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 fraction of the development that Port Augusta has seen.

The third upper Spencer Gulf city council, Whyalla, is also more supportive of renewable energy projects than Port Pirie council.

This page was written 2018/06/29, modified 2019/07/23
Contact: 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

Poll; Flinders News Internet site.
Poll results
This is the result of a poll conducted in the Flinders News, in and article written by Piper Denholm and dated 2018/03/07.
This section added 2018/07/26

Council opposes an innovative half billion dollar renewable energy development that seems to have overwhelming local support

The biggest renewable energy development proposed in the Port Pirie area is the Crystal Brook Energy Park, an innovative combination of wind power, solar PV, battery storage and possibly electrolytic hydrogen production worth from $350 million to $600 million.


SA is leading the nation, but Port Pirie is a backwater

"South Australia is on track to renewables generation equal to 70 per cent of the state’s electricity consumption by 2020 and 85 per cent by 2030"; PACE, 2018/07/24. No thanks to Port Pirie Council.
Let's have a progressive Port Pirie.
An online poll that was conducted by a local newspaper (results in the screen-shot on the right) indicated overwhelming support for the Crystal Brook Energy Park with five of every six respondents in favour of the project.

On 2018/07/26 the poll results were available on a Flinders News online page titled Largest solar and wind powered hydrogen plant to be built at Crystal Brook. To see the result you will need to click on 'view results' on that page.

In spite of the apparently overwhelming local support suggested by the poll and the valuable development that the Crystal Brook Energy Park would constitute, the Port Pirie Regional Council later voted to oppose the project.

I, David Clarke, the author of this page, was not aware of the poll until the day before I wrote this piece, 2018/07/25. I believed the poll to be important and revealing but I was unwilling to publish anything about it until I was able to confirm its existence and results on the following day.

My impression has been that the Port Pirie newspaper management (the same people control both Port Pirie newspapers) have been biased against the Energy Park; they seemed much more inclined to publish negative rather than positive articles about it. The fact that the poll was not published in the newspaper tended to confirm that impression. I suspect that the newspaper management were hoping for a negative result, which they would have published, but wanted to give minimal coverage to the positive result.

Several other people became interested in the poll at the time I was informed of it. One or more must have contacted the Flinders News and a reporter, Greg Mayfield, told me that the poll would be printed in the paper on 2018/08/01; it was not, but it was published later.

Of course the poll was not proof of anything, but having been carried out by a newspaper that was far from supportive of the energy park anyone would have to admit that it was indicative of the public opinion.

Projects proposed in the Port Pirie council area

I emailed Port Pirie Regional Council on 2018/07/23 asking them for a summary of the renewable energy proposals in their area. The table below is based on the reply I received on 2018/08/02.
Shown as received from Port Pirie Regional Council
ApplicantDevelopment DescriptionLocationCapacity MWValueStatus of ApplicationRelevant Authority
Renew Power GroupSolar Farm432 Abattoirs Road, Port Pirie4.9$10,000,000Development Plan Consent has been issued, Full Development Approval is yet to be completedPort Pirie Regional Council (PPRC)
Green & Gold SolarSolar Farm43 Pirie Blocks Road, Bungama1.65$1,500,000Development Plan Consent has been issued, Full Development Approval is yet to be completedPPRC
EPS energySolar FarmMultiple properties situated approximately 6 kilometres east of Port Pirie, within the localities of Bungama, Napperby and Warnertown280$350m to $400mSCAP approval has yet to be soughtState Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) will be the relevant authority
Neoen AustraliaCrystal Brook Energy Park incorporates a wind and solar farmMultiple properties 3.5 kilometres north-east of Crystal Brook, in the southern most portion of the Flinders Ranges, bound in part by Heads Road, Pipeline Track, Collaby Hill Road, Augusta Highway and Robinson Road.wind farm (up to 125MW) and solar farm (up to 150MW)$65,550,000*Currently under planning assessment, a decision is yet to be completedSCAP
Bungama Solar Farm Pty. Ltd.Solar FarmLot 53 Pirie Blocks Road, Bungama4.9$6,000,000Application cancelled by applicantPPRC
The acceptability of CBEP and the EPS energy project, because of their size, is decided by state government, not Council.
* My information is that the total value of the CBEP is between $350m and $600m. A project of this size would have to cost far more than $65m, for example, the nearby 315MW Hornsdale Wind Farm cost $900m.

At the time of writing the Port Pirie Regional Council were opposing the very innovative Crystal Brook Energy Park (CBEP) that will combine wind power, solar PV, a battery and possibly a hydrogen production facility. They were supporting the much smaller Renew Power Group's 5 MW solar farm on Abattoirs Road south-east of the city. The former has an estimated capital cost of something from $350-$600 million the latter was expected to cost around $10 million. I do not know where the council stood on the EPS Energy proposal.

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 a small fraction of that of 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.

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

The inappropriate zoning in a part of the Pirie Council area 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 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. The positivity of the Whyalla City Council can be seen 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."

Update 2018/08/12: A Chinese company has proposed more renewable developments for Whyalla, one or two solar power-horticultural facilities (similar to Sundrop Farms?) employing up to 140 people.

There was a ground-braking ceremony for the first 280 MW stage of Sanjeev Gupta's proposed 1 GW of renewable energy in mid August 2018.

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

My pages on Facebook

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

External links

Life after coal: the South Australian city leading the way; The Guardian, Adam Morton, 2018/07/20