From the Newsroom

CVC “notes concerns” about solar farm proposal

Geoff Helisma

Councillors have unanimously agreed to “note” Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) “concerns” about the “bulk and scale” of a solar farm proposed for Lower Southgate.

At last week’s November 23 CVC meeting, councillors considered “a petition signed by 45 community members, requesting council to oppose a proposed solar development (Clarence Valley Solar Farm) at Lower Southgate, due to potential impacts, including social, ecological, amenity and loss of agricultural land”.

The councillors’ decision also noted that: there were “potential detrimental impacts on the Everlasting Swamp National Park”; CVC staff will continue to engage with the community, DPIE [Department of Planning, Industry and Environment] and the proponent [Infinergy Australia Pty Ltd] about proposed solar development”; and, “CVC will have a role in providing its position about the proposed solar development at the appropriate time, in accordance with DPIE’s assessment framework for SSD”.

While councillors did not specify actions to be taken by staff during the process, CVC’s environment and planning director, Adam Cameron, told the Independent, “When the department seeks agency input, including CVC’s, into the … environmental assessment, council staff would clearly articulate the concerns raised by council at the December meeting.”

The proposal is currently at stage one of a six-stage process: submitting a scoping study and receiving “the [SEARs] Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements, which prescribes the technical studies required to support a formal development application [DA] for the proposal”.

Infinergy Australia is a part of Infinergy Pacific, which is in turn a “a subsidiary of UK-based Infinergy Limited”.

According to its website, the company has “established a track record in the successful delivery of medium and large scale solar and wind projects in the United Kingdom and The Netherlands”.

A project-dedicated website – www.clarencevalleysolarfarm.com.au – states that the solar farm will, if approved, be “carefully located on approximately 340 ha of previously cleared and highly modified land”.

“Fully constructed, at a scale of 85 megawatts, the solar farm would produce enough energy to power the equivalent of approximately 45,500 average NSW households each year, while reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 150,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), based on the current energy mix of the NSW electricity sector,” the website states.

At the council meeting, Cr Richie Williamson said he had “done a bit of research and this is not a few panels on the side of a hill”.

He said the proposal would “certainly have a visual impact … on people to the east”.

“I can’t see how to mitigate the long-term loss of prime agricultural land, and this [proposal] has a life of 30 years,” he said.

“I think it’s prudent to outline [our position] at this stage … so people know what this council thinks.”

Cr Greg Clancy, who advocated the inclusion of noting the “potential detrimental impacts on the Everlasting Swamp National Park” said he “supported alternative energy [production] … but it is the scale of the proposal that is the problem here … so I think having ‘concerns’ is reasonable”.

Cr Debrah Novak congratulated the residents “for mobilising” and thanked them “for bringing it to our attention”.

Cr Andrew Baker said, “This shouldn’t be taken as my opposition to large scale solar farming.

“I’m just really stunned that the proponents have not identified the massive loss of amenity…

“…and so, it may well be a great development in the wrong place.

“As a public interest authority, we should show the proponent and opponents some sort of position … and, hopefully, send serious messages to the proponents…”

Cr Peter Ellem warned, “What CVC should be aware of is that the state government is pushing these large solar farms.

“I agree with Cr Baker; in the right place I’d probably welcome [this]… [but] just as we have a resolution on new mineral mining [in the Clarence River catchment] … we have to be just as vigorous about this large-scale renewable energy development.”

 

CAPTIONs

Top one for the graphic – main pic needs no explanation

 

NSW state significant development approval process.

Images: from Infinergy’s newsletter distributed to neighbours of the solar farm proposal.

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