One Solar Bitten – Twice Shy

Like Lightning – Solar Farms on prime agricultural land won’t be able to strike twice in the Central Highlands with the Regional Council giving the land devouring power source the flick.

huge solar farm 2
Mayor Kerry Hayes says the region has one such farm approved and that he says is being set to be established on 160 hectares of high-value irrigation land under code-assessable legislation.

That project is currently under construction and employs about 40 people while being built.

Council has now moved to protect land within the irrigation scheme from the development of renewable energy facilities under a temporary land use planning instrument (TLPI).

The move means that any further applications within the irrigation scheme will require public notification and response as part of the approval processes.

Cr Hayes says Council is not saying no to the heat generating plants but wants them situated strategically.

“We’re one of the largest local government regions in the state, there’s plenty of land suitable. It’s just crazy to have (solar and irrigated agriculture) in the same spot.”

Cotton Australia is calling for a coordinated state-wide response to the Emerald issue, which it says exemplifies what may happen across the state.

Cotton Australia Regional manager, Renee Anderson, says the Emerald situation should be a warning to all players.

“If this was taken into consideration under a state-wide code the neighbour notifications would have occurred sooner. We have some growers who are really upset and then others saying, ‘people can do whatever they want with their land’.”

“We don’t actually know any potential impacts and I guess that’s the biggest risk of all – is the fact that we don’t know. Growers need to have certainty about how much water goes through the irrigation system.”

“There is the suggestion that as this proposal will take prime agricultural land out of the irrigation system, it will also potentially reduce the amount of water available. This also implies a reduction of the jobs and services that support food and fibre production in the district.”

Queensland could take a leaf out of NSW’s book who have recently consulted on such state-wide guidelines.”

RES Australia asset management services manager Tanya Jackson says the placement of the Emerald Solar Park was well thought-out by the company.

“Using farming land that has been well worked over decades also means there is minimal impact to natural habitat and cultural heritage. The land was chosen primarily as it is adjacent to a grid line within 5kms of the Emerald sub-station which has available spare grid capacity.”

Lachlan Millar

Lachlan Millar,Member for Gregory

Local MP, Lachlan Millar, member for Gregory says the solar project in its current location is just wrong.

“Probably one of the worst things that can ever happen to an irrigation area.”

“We don’t make this anymore – we’re not creating any higher value agricultural land especially with the Palaszczuk government wanting to reintroduce new vegetation management laws, we’ll see further restrictions on high value agricultural land.”

“So why the hell are we putting a solar farm on valuable irrigation country? It has to be outlawed.”

Mr Millar says he placed no blame on local councillors, saying instead his beef was with the Res Group.

” I call on the company to have a good, long, hard think about where they actually want to put this solar farm,” he said.