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Indigenous benefits from Port Augusta solar project

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The local Aboriginal community says it will receive economic benefits worth up to $1.8 million from a solar energy generation plant to be built near Port Augusta.

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Construction is set to begin on what is touted to become Australia’s largest solar farm, the 300-megawatt Bungala project, located 12km from Port Augusta.

The project is being built on an 800 hectare site owned by the Bungala Aboriginal Corporation, which today revealed it could reap nearly $2 million in economic benefits for the local Aboriginal community via lease payments and potential employment.

The developers, Reach Solar Energy, Enel Green Power and the Dutch Infrastructure Fund, reportedly reached financial close on the project last week.

Reach expects the first two stages of the plant – constituting the majority of its generation capacity – to be complete by late 2018.

Bungala Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Rob Laundy said the project would turn an under-utilised site into an income-generating asset for the community.

“The site had been an ostrich farm many years ago and had then been virtually untouched for years falling into substantial disrepair,” he says.

“We’d been contemplating re-fencing it and perhaps running stock but when we saw this opportunity, the potential benefits to our community were simply too impressive to ignore.”

A statement from the corporation said the project would be developed in a number of stages and would have a 30-year life span.

The first part of the project aimed to produce 200MW of power in two stages which, on completion, would be able to power around 82,000 homes.

Reach director of business development David Webster said construction could begin within the next two months and the contractor would be looking to recruit local workers where possible.

“This a hugely significant project for South Australia given both its scale and generation capacity,” he said.

“We hope it will certainly go some way to giving the South Australian public more confidence about the potential surety of supply of their vital energy needs.”

Laundy said lease payments for the site plus the potential for jobs – both during and after construction – meant the project was a winner for the Aboriginal community.

“We recognise the need for the Bungala Aboriginal Corporation to be as self-sufficient as it can be by identifying culturally appropriate commercial opportunities that deliver real value to our community,” he said.

“The Bungala Solar Project is a classic example of what we hope can be achieved through strategic partnerships and we look forward to seeing the program being successfully rolled out.”

– InDaily

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