Gulgong Solar Farm Application Denied

Gulgong solar farm development application refused

Development approval for a proposed small utility-scale solar farm to be built near the town of Gulgong in New South Wales has been denied.

Gulgong is a town of around 2,500 residents in the Mudgee region of New South Wales. It was a gold rush town previously and more recently there’s been a different sort of rush – to establish solar farms.

One to get over the line was the 110MW Beryl Solar Plant. Situated around 7 kilometres from Gulgong, it has been operational since June last year. The majority of electricity generated by the facility is spoken for under a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Sydney Metro.

With such a big solar farm operating close by, surely a piddly 6MWdc/5MWac project was going to be a shoe-in. But it wasn’t.

In a decision on Monday, the NSW Government’s Western Regional Planning Panel unanimously voted to refuse the application. Among the reasons was the development site wasn’t considered suitable given its proximity to Gulgong and the inability to visually screen the solar farm from the township and from the surrounding rural landscape in a suitable manner. It appears an edge of the 15.9 hectare site that was to be home to 16,000 solar panels would have been within 800 metres of the outskirts of Gulgong.

The Panel also noted the development application failed to consider impacts on all nearby properties and didn’t provide adequate details in relation to the decommissioning of the solar farm and subsequent rehabilitation of the site.

The assessment report from Mid-Western Regional Council, which recommended the application be refused, states the public exhibition period for the project last year resulted in 445 submissions received. Of those, 439 were objections and just 6 supported the proposal. For a town of Gulgong’s size, that’s a huge amount of opposition.

Common concerns in written submissions included visual, cultural heritage, noise and bushfire impact and potential contamination issues, along with a lack of economic benefit.

Large Scale Solar And GRRR

Large-scale PV certainly seems to be a bit of a touchy subject in the town, which exists in the NSW Government’s planned Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone.

Gulgong Residents for Responsible Renewables (GRRR) were opposing another solar farm – Vena Energy’s 220 MW Gulgong Solar Project – and any other large-scale PV developments on their doorstep.

GRRR stated it isn’t opposed to solar energy facilities per se, but is opposed to productive agricultural land being replaced with solar panels. GRRR believes solar farms in the area should be built on reclaimed land around mine sites in the Ulan district. It’s not clear what the group’s views are of the much larger Stubbo Solar Project, but that is to be situated a bit further away from Gulgong and grazing will be able to continue.

The town’s residents are keen on rooftop solar power though. As at June 30, more than 442 small-scale systems had been installed in Gulgong and the 2852 postcode area.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. Well, what can you say? Stupid is as stupid does. Sounds like an awful lot of ignorance and misinformation is getting about in that area.

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