Locals savage solar decisions

Local landholders savage solar decisions

Dairy
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Landholders affected by the decision to approve three large-scale solar developments are furious with the decision.

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Landholders in the Goulburn Valley are furious that three large-scale solar farms have been approved for prime irrigated land in the region.

The approval of the solar installations by Planning Minister Richard Wynne has been slammed by neighbouring landholders who say he has not followed his own guidelines.

The sites at Tatura East, Tallygaroopna and Lemnos will have more than a combined 650,000 solar panels, generating 175 kilowatts.

Goulburn Valley dairy farmer Natalie Akers said the community was "incredibly disappointed".

"The group will have to explore what options are available to it," Ms Akers said.

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She said the guidelines were "solid" as they acknowledged that irrigated agriculture needed to be preserved.

"The dilemma here is that the government hasn't wanted to apply the guidelines," she said.

"I have had a call in to the minister's office since Friday and have not had a return call.

"They don't want to face the community after causing this injustice and [are] not prepared to explain why they did that."

Mr Wynne said the permit applications were considered by an independent panel nearly a year ago.

"It would be unfair for the proponents to be assessed against guidelines that are yet to be incorporated into the planning scheme," he said.

Ms Akers said the government claimed it was about investment in "the right place" but if it followed the guidelines it would not have approved these sites.

"Why did the government not wait a few weeks until the guidelines were included in the planning?" she said.

It is an issue that would not go away, as irrigated land is attractive to companies for solar installations.

Dairy farmer Bernie MacGill will have a solar park on one boundary of his property and a recently approved cannabis glasshouse on another.

Mr MacGill was disappointed that the minister had not listened to the community.

He said the local landholders had made submissions to the planning hearings.

"The hearings were held and then all of a sudden the minister makes these decisions," he said.

"It's been a waste of our time and money."

Mr MacGill said the developments bordering his farm would have a negative impact on water flows during flood events.

He said the area was also prone to lightning strikes in summer that could ignite dry materials around the panels where access for fire fighting was restricted.

He said the solar company was obliged to plant trees on road boundaries, but not on the boundary with his property because they were pastures.

Mr MacGill said little was known about the impact on evaporation and irrigation scheduling from the heat effect of solar panels.

Ms Akers said landholders could not find anywhere in the world where large-scale solar developments were backed up to orchards.

She said the United Kingdom had regulations preventing certain classifications of productive land from being used for solar developments.

Elita Ymer, whose family operate Valley Star Orchards at Lemnos, said there were many unknowns about the impact on neighbouring orchards.

Raised temperatures from the heat effects of solar panels would impact apple orchards that needed a certain number of cooling days for bud set.

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