Gundary Solar Farm Battle Heats Up

Lightsource bp’s proposed huge Gundary Solar Farm near Goulburn in New South Wales is reportedly attracting some high-profile opposition.

The Gundary Solar Farm project consists of a 400MWdc solar farm and battery energy storage system (BESS) of unspecified capacity. Expected to generate 800,000 MWh of clean electricity a year – equivalent to the electricity consumption of 133,000 households – the clean power station will avoid around 640,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

The site is approximately 13 kilometres south of Goulburn and currently utilised for grazing. Lightsource bp is aiming to have sheep continuing to graze the land once the $540 million project is operational.

All going well, construction would kick off in mid-to late 2024 and is expected to take between 18 to 24 months. The project will create approximately 400 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs during construction and 2 to 4 ongoing FTE jobs during the solar farm’s operations; which would initially be for 35 years.  Lightsource bp is also looking into options for a Community Benefit Fund to distribute contributions to the area.

Back in April we reported that even before consultation kicked off, there were some mutterings of opposition – which are to be expected for any project of this nature. Those rumblings seem to have grown since, but so too has support.

There are three main groups on the for and against sides:

Protest Signs Up – And Removed

As part of Stop Gundary Solar Farm’s protest actions, signs were placed on fencing associated with the proposed site. Some of these have been removed and the finger pointed at TGG members. The Goulburn Post reports a claim of CCTV camera footage of a TGG member removing a sign last Monday.

TGG’s Vice-President wasn’t previously aware of the allegation, but said it was an action not organised or condoned by TGG.

Angus Taylor Accused Of Backing Opposition

Australia’s previous Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction, current Member for Hume and Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor has a property not far from the proposed site. TGG alleges Mr Taylor and current Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman are backing the opposition campaign.

“It is staggering that Angus Taylor and Wendy Tuckerman are backing the campaign by a small number of landholders against a project that has the potential not only to provide a boost to the local economy but to open up much larger opportunities for renewable energy developments in our region,” said TGG vice-president Mike Steketee.

Commenting on Mr. Taylor specifically, Mr. Steketee said:

… as our elected member of parliament, not to mention as former Minister for Emissions Reduction, he has a wider responsibility to his community and to the planet.”

It seems Lightsource bp has added more information to the project web page since April, and that could have been handy from the get-go in perhaps helping to address concerns of some parties. But for others, they simply don’t want the solar farm there.

The battle for Gundary Solar Farm is only just getting started – watch this space.

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. Wendy Tuckerman and Angus Taylor are our elected representatives. The Goulburn Group are not and have not been chosen by the Goulburn community to speak for any Goulburn residents. We would be very annoyed if our elected representatives did not stand up for us. Over 53 residences is not a small number. This will be one of the biggest solar farms in Australia surrounded and affecting over 70 people. This is a beautiful area and there are very big issues around planning in this area which is less than 10 kms from Goulburn. Lightsourcebp is an English company which will take the Australian government subsidies and has given itself on its website in its business plan the option to sell to whom??
    This is not a political nor a renewable energy philosophical issue but the Goulburn Group, none of whom’s members have actually seen what the impact of this will have on this area and its community want to make it a political issues for their own selfish purposes. Shame on them.
    In addition Lightsourcebp are not offering any compensation. The solar panels will 150m from our house and another residence has been deemed unsaleable.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Ann Moore,
      Over 53 residences is not a small number. This will be one of the biggest solar farms in Australia surrounded and affecting over 70 people.

      Not a small number compared with what? Per the ABS, the City of Goulburn nearby had an estimated population of 24,382 in 2020.
      https://dbr.abs.gov.au/region.html?lyr=sa2&rgn=101051539

      The NEM as a whole (that the Goulburn region is part of) supplies about 200 terawatt hours of electricity to businesses and households in Australia each year. It supplies around 9 million customers.
      https://aemo.com.au/en/energy-systems/electricity/national-electricity-market-nem/about-the-national-electricity-market-nem

      ICYMI, within the next ten years, a large portion of the NEM’s coal-fired generating capacity will inevitably be withdrawn – see my comments at: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/australia-electricity-price-problem/#comment-1476495

      In the YouTube video titled Regenerate Calare: Plan to Prosper Webinar, published May 16, from time interval 0:06:04, ANU Professor Andrew Blakers indicates that the federal electorates of Calare and Hume have the best renewable energy resources in Australia, including:
      • Great wind resources;
      • Good solar resources;
      • Great transmission infrastructure linked with large urban centres; and
      • Many large capacity off-river pumped-hydro energy storage potential sites.
      Watch/listen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0D4xwVNdwP0

      Ann, if the Gundary Solar Farm site is not suitable for a solar-PV/BESS system to supply electricity to the NEM, then where would be suitable? Or do you not care, so far as it’s definitely not anywhere near you? Isn’t that you adopting a NIMBY attitude?

      Where will reliable electricity come from to supply the NEM when the ageing (and increasingly less reliable) coal-fired power stations close? Where will a reliable electricity supply come from in future to support Australia’s ongoing prosperity that Australians (perhaps including you and your family) benefit from?

      This is not a political nor a renewable energy philosophical issue but the Goulburn Group, none of whom’s members have actually seen what the impact of this will have on this area and its community want to make it a political issues for their own selfish purposes.

      Ann, have you communicated with any/all of The Goulburn Group (TGG) members? If not, then how would you know what any/all of the TGG members “have actually seen” or understood?

      TGG website includes:

      Members believe that a transition to a low carbon economy is urgent, both locally and nationally. Membership is open to people and groups who share our vision and concerns.

      The Australian Security Leaders Climate Group published their report on Jun 28, titled Food Fight: Climate change, food crises & regional insecurity, that describes Australia and the Asia-Pacific as a “disaster alley” for climate change, but says governments in Canberra have not properly planned for the impact of “cascading and compound events”.
      https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jun/28/australia-ill-prepared-for-food-insecurity-driven-by-war-and-climate-crisis-former-defence-leaders-say

      Perhaps TGG members have a better perspective than you on what really matters?

      “In addition Lightsourcebp are not offering any compensation.”

      Compensation for what detrimental consequences?

      The solar panels will 150m from our house and another residence has been deemed unsaleable.

      Deemed by whom?

      I think the many, many people, who’s lives and livelihoods are already being detrimentally affected by climate-driven catastrophic bushfires, floods, droughts, storm damage, and sea level rise (that will continue to get worse for at least a few more decades, even if humanity stopped further GHG emissions from tomorrow) have far, far bigger concerns than yours.

      • Greg Madden says

        There seems to be a lot of NIMBY’s around. We have our share in Bathurst, too.

        I was one of a group that travelled by bus to Dubbo about the end of 2019, I think, to inspect a solar farm run by Neoen on land belonging to Tom Warren.

        The solar farm we inspected was about 100 acres (40 hectares) or more, as far as I recall. On the north side, industrial development runs right up to the boundary fence, and on the west there is a railway line, with houses now being built right up to the line. Activity on the railway line will be far more intrusive than that from the solar farm, but that doesn’t seem to be worrying the developers or the purchasers. We saw no glare or reflections from the solar farm. After all, it’s designed to absorb light, not to reflect it!

        Someone said at the start that, at a glance, you can mistake a large solar farm for a lake of water, which I thought was a ridiculous thing to say, but within half an hour, I had an unexpected glimpse of the solar farm through a window of the bus as we drove around it, and it looked exactly like a lake for a second or two. It certainly wasn’t offensive!

        A twenty metre wide band of Australian native plants, trees and shrubs, around the edge and you would not know it was there. This was something Tom wished he had insisted on before construction had commenced, because there wasn’t enough space for the installation of it afterwards without moving the security fence. He had only one row of trees.

        Tom’s experience through the drought was very interesting. The rows of panels are about eight to ten metres apart and about 1.5 metres high, and he grazes sheep on the solar farm, under the panels. He had the same land and pasture inside the solar farm as he had outside, and he said he had used the same stocking rate (all sheep from the same mob) inside and outside for the duration of the drought. He said he had fed the sheep on the land outside the solar farm for just on two years, while the sheep inside the solar farm had only needed feeding for the last four months of the drought. Same land, same pasture, same sheep, same stocking rate. Food for thought?

        Tom’s learned experience was that there were a number of factors which contributed to the higher carrying capacity under the solar farm. In no particular order, he mentioned things like the small amounts of runoff which occur from occasional showers of rain, or more often the overnight dew, collecting and running off the panels at the same point each day and producing small amounts of green growth at that point, to the panels providing shade for the sheep everywhere, and also some shadow protection for the grass from the harshest sun, as well as the whole structure providing some amount of windbreak for the pasture.

        He declined to tell us what rental he was receiving from Neoen for the use of the land, but he said the rental income combined with the extra carrying capacity of the land made the returns very attractive in a drought and he felt it would continue in a similar fashion with the return of normal seasons.

        Interestingly, Tom had also built his own private solar farm on a nearby area of other land which was also adjoining the high voltage power lines through his property.. It was about fifty to seventy metres or so square, with panels prefabricated into modules supported by something like concrete railway sleepers and cables. The whole setup was bought in by truck and unloaded and set up by a forklift in a day. Including the inverter and the connection to the overhead high voltage lines, he said the whole setup cost him $125,000. But no grazing was possible with this setup, as everything was on or close to the ground. He said it could be dismantled, loaded and gone in a day, if he chose to sell it in the future. Not sure why he would do that, though.

        He said he had employed a professional negotiator to arrange his contract for the sale of electricity to the local energy wholesaler, and most importantly, he said his return on the capital invested was 13% for the duration of his contract. And that at a time when bank interest rates were about 0.2%!! I don’t know of many farmers receiving a rate of return like that, on a daily basis, from anything else, with no further physical or monetary input. He didn’t specify the length of his contract, but he was clearly very happy with the return from such a small area in the middle of a raging drought.

        I would really suggest to anyone concerned about the nearby construction of a large solar farm to go and look at one closely and learn more before forming an opinion. They don’t move, they don’t smell, they make no sound that you can hear outside the solar farm, because all the inverters (which hum) were placed well inside the area, and the land remains highly productive.

        Someone got a Real Estate Agent in Bathurst to say that, in his opinion, land would be devalued by having a solar farm nearby, but of course, no-one sold to prove it, and recent property sales in the district have been for astronomical prices which have no relationship with the production capacity of the land anyway, so that seems to be another furphy. But we still don’t have a local solar farm, so NIMBY-ism is alive and well here, too!

        I can’t comment on the increased fire “risk” from a solar farm, if any. Perhaps someone else can enlighten us with facts about that, not more fiction?

        • Ann Moore says

          Greg Madden. The solar farm you visited was only 100 acres, very easy to husband sheep. The one proposed at Gundary is 1560 acres and very hilly. In order to ensure that the sheep can be husbanded properly on an area where you cant see them all and where there are potential hazards such as drive shafts, as at Wellington and the legs of the panel frames there need to be fences. Smaller areas mean the sheep can be moved more easily with out harming themselves. Solar installations developers will not build internal fences. You also didnt say how many sheep.

        • Geoff Miell says

          Greg Madden,
          Thanks for your thoughtful perspective.

          “There seems to be a lot of NIMBY’s around. We have our share in Bathurst, too.”

          And it seems in the Lithgow LGA were I live within. For example:

          EnergyAustralia is considering their Lake Lyell Pumped Hydro proposal. It’s still early days for this proposal, with geotechnical studies still to be done, with an estimated 2 to 3 years of planning process to pass through, and if viable, followed by 3 years of construction. AFAIK, the information session on 8 Dec 2021 was EnergyAustralia’s first public consultation for this proposed project.
          https://www.energyaustralia.com.au/about-us/energy-generation/energy-projects/lake-lyell-pumped-hydro

          There was a letterbox flyer drop in Lithgow in the week prior to the Lithgow Community Power Project (LCPP) hosted 8 Dec 2021 information session, in opposition to the Lake Lyell Pumped Hydro proposal.

          Approximately 150 people attended (including me) for the LCPP hosted information session at the Wallerawang Bowling Club, for an information exchange/Q&A of EnergyAustralia’s Lake Lyell Pumped Hydro proposal & Neoen’s Great Western Battery proposal.
          https://www.facebook.com/my2lt/photos/a.500764900054440/2383904941740417/?type=3&theater
          https://pp.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/projects/great-western-battery-energy-storage-system

          Wet weather may have deterred some people from attending. Some of the people that produced and distributed the flyer made themselves known at the meeting.

          The biggest issue seemed to be the aesthetics of seeing the proposed concrete wall of the top reservoir on top of Mt Walker. Someone suggested painting the wall to camouflage it with the surrounding bushland. Some people appeared irate about having to look at the proposed wall from their “kitchen windows”, but I note Lake Lyell is also an artificial lake held back by a concrete wall that was constructed to serve the Wallerawang Power Station.

          Another issue was the cyclic rise and fall of the water level at Lake Lyell – roughly a 2 metre fall over 10–12 hours during the pumping phase, and subsequent rising over 8 hours during electricity generation. Some anglers were concerned about the effects of the proposal on fish stocks, and on the camping and recreational facilities at Lake Lyell.

          Evaporation was also mentioned. I’d suggest Mt Piper Power Station (MPPS) is currently the biggest contributor to Lake Lyell’s rate of evaporation. MPPS has high demand for make-up water for use in the cooling water system, with an average of around 40 ML/day and up to 54 ML/day at maximum output capacity – per Springvale WTP MOD 6 Report Nov 2020, page 9. EnergyAustralia has a Water Supply Works and Water Use Approval licence (WAL 27428) to extract 25 GL per year from, use and/or discharge to Lilyvale Dam (Lake Lyell), Wallerawang Dam (Lake Wallace), Thompsons Creek Dam (Thompsons Creek Reservoir), and Sawyers Swamp Creek Ash Dam.

          Others were concerned about the proposal’s effect on property values, and tourism.

          Another issue was the vehicle traffic during the construction phase on currently inadequate roads. I’d suggest the access roads will likely be much improved for the long-term benefits of the local residents.

          IMO, there seemed to be some very vocal NIMBYs there at that meeting on Dec 8. Some others voiced support for the projects, highlighting that the coal jobs in the Lithgow region will inevitably go and there needed to be alternative job prospects for the community in future.

          IMO, if there are enough NIMBYs then nothing gets done to arrest Australia’s increasingly precarious energy security situation, and assist in mitigating the climate emergency (referred in my earlier comments above).

          You may wish to view a pdf file (10.4 MB), that was an attachment to my Submission to the NSW Independent Planning Commission re the assessment/determination of the proposed Mt Pleasant Optimisation Project (SSD-10418), outlining critical evidence/data concerning the climate and energy crisis emerging.
          https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/resources/pac/media/files/pac/project-submissions/2022/05/mt-pleasant-optimisation-project-ssd-10418/20220708t144208/theclimateenergycrisis20220708.pdf

      • ann moore says

        Yes Mr Miell, I have communicated with the Goulburn Group. I approached them, they did not approach me. We have also communicated with the Goulburn Police about the member of the Goulburn Group who was caught on CCTV stealing our signs off private property. Full frontal photo looking at the camera and the number plate. We dont behave like that.

        When you have a solar installation 150 metres from your bedroom as we will have and 3kms of panels running down one side of your boundary and .8 km along the end, then you will be in a position to make the comments you have made. Believe it or not, people other than you have rights too. Where do you live?? The City??

        Try Arthurs Lea near Marulan at the Sydney University site. Perfect for a solar installation.

  2. Ann Moore says

    Mr Stekertee appears to live/work in the ACT which has one very small solar farm but the same climate as Goulburn. He should concentrate on persuading his Territory Government to put wind turbines on the hills in the ACT and to utilise all the flat land for solar farms or is he the ultimate NIMBY?

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