The State Government has approved a major new solar farm north of Shepparton.
It’s also released draft planning guidelines for the development of large solar farm projects across the state.
Planning Minister Richard Wynne has announced he has approved the Congupna solar farm proposal, which will produce 30 megawatts of clean energy and create around 110 jobs, enough to power 10,000 homes.
“We’re working with industry and community to make sure solar farm developments deliver the right outcomes for communities, the environment and jobs.”
The project will be built on non-irrigated agricultural land and drive around $38 million in capital expenditure.
The proposal was one of four the Minister “called in”, after the Greater Shepparton City Council asked the government to make a decision on their suitability.
The minister said a decision on the Tallygaroopna, Lemnos and Tatura East solar farm applications had been deferred until further strategic work was completed for the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District.
A prominent Shepparton district dairy farmer has previously claimed plans for solar farms in the Shepparton area, worth $300million, were a case of the market outrunning planning regulations.
Tallygaroopna’s Natalie Akers said she was deeply concerned at plans to build the four farms on prime agricultural land with extensive, modernised irrigation infrastructure.
It appeared it was a case for solar companies looking for “cheap and easy options, because Victoria has no solar farm planning guidelines.
“I am not opposed to solar developments, but do not believe they should be built on productive agricultural irrigation properties on the $2 billion irrigation backbone,” Ms Akers said.
“All four proposed solar farms in Shepparton are on productive irrigation land, connected to the backbone.
“The failure to have a Victorian strategy about the location of solar farms and guidelines sees a scattergun approach to their installation
Mr Wynne also released the draft Solar Energy Facilities – Design and Development Guidelines for comment.
He said the draft guidelines would help inform councils, developers and communities on planning requirements for the large solar farm facilities to ensure they are built in the right locations, are easily accessible to the grid and that proposals give careful consideration to high productivity agricultural areas and sensitive landscapes.
The document was informed by a review of guidelines and best practice standards interstate and internationally.
It also included a Best Practice Guide for Proponents to help developers engage with communities, and minimise the environmental and social impacts of their proposals.
The Solar Energy Facilities – Design and Development Guidelines are open for public comment until January 30 at www.planning.vic.gov.au/policy-and-strategy/solar-energy-facilities-design-and-development-draft-guidelines.