Gunnedah Solar Farm Referred To Independent Planning Commission

Gunnedah Solar Farm

A major solar farm proposed for the Gunnedah area in New South Wales has been referred to the IPC as a result of the number of objections lodged. 

Photon Energy Australia Pty Ltd wants to build a 165MW solar farm approximately 9 kilometres outside of Gunnedah that will generate an estimated 293,000 MWh1 of electricity per annum. The company says that’s enough to supply the equivalent of 49,000 households, which is approximately ten times the number of homes in the Gunnedah Shire.

The proposed project is to be located on a 795-hectare site currently used for cropping, with the development footprint covering 304 hectares2 .

As Gunnedah Solar Farm is considered a State Significant Development (SSD), approval fell to the NSW Department of Planning & Environment instead of Gunnedah Shire Council. While the Department says the project is “approvable” subject to recommended conditions being met, the number of objections to it has resulted in the referral to the Independent Planning Commission.

Out of a total of 63 submissions received, 49 were objections3, 13 requested further information and 1 confirmed support of the project. The majority of the objections came from residents living within 10 kilometres of the site. As more than 25 objections were lodged, this triggered the referral to the IPC.

The five key aspects raised in objections related to flooding, the use of prime agricultural land, traffic during construction, aesthetics and impact on property values. Flooding issues were the most commonly mentioned concern, with accuracy of flood modelling called into question and the impact of security fencing for the solar farm on water flows and velocity in the event of a flood.

The response to submissions can be viewed here.

According to the Namoi Valley Independent, the IPC will make its decision in 6-7 weeks and will hold a public meeting at Gunnedah Town Hall on November 29 from 9.30am to discuss the project.

Photon Energy had hoped to start building the solar farm in the first quarter of next year, with construction expected to take 12-14 months. Approximately 100 jobs will be created during the construction phase and the project will support up to ten jobs during operation. The company has committed to employing locally where possible.

Gunnedah Solar Farm would operate for approximately 25 years, following which its viability reassessed and a decision made in agreement with the landowner as to whether to continue operations, upgrade or decommission the facility; returning it to a state fit for agricultural use.

In other recent energy-related news out of the Gunnedah area, last month Gunnedah Shire Council announced it had agreed to enter a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with a Chinese company to research the potential of building a cogeneration power station in the region that will burn cotton plant waste – and coal.

Footnotes

  1. Photon’s fact sheet says GWh, but they probably mean MWh
  2. The land area figures are from the NSW Government’s Assessment Report, which differ from Photon’s project fact sheet. The Assessment report also puts the capacity at 150MW
  3. two duplicated submissions (objections) were received.
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 I think we know why there have been so many objections. Gunnedah sees itself as a coal mining town and would rather have a dirty coal fired power station than a passive solar farm. The fact that many of the objections were similar seems like an organised campaign to me. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the council was behind it.

    Meanwhile how many of those same objectors are concerned by the environmental impact of a coal and biomass burning power station in their backyard?

  2. Sounds like a case of rabble-rousing by a few vocal locals.

    But seriously, the significant impact of this construction pales in comparison to the long term benefits…

    “Loss of agricultural land”? really? where’s the water to irrigate it? As the report said, only about 23% of the land was available for irrigation.

    Loss of property value?? How much has property values risen in regional areas? They are mostly static or very slow to changes. And how many people are affected by this?

    But the corker is this….the glare and shimmer and reflection of solar panels? Come on! The panels absorb light energy, not reflect. Wow, just how ignorant are these people about solar technology…..

    If reflection is occur, it has to be 90 degrees to the sun’s ray. The only possible time for to happen are tilting panels at sunrise or sunset or if one is above the panels at a significant height.

    I often wonder if people who live on the sides of the mountains see the refelctions of all the solar panels on homes below them (e.g. like the Blue Mountains looking east over Penrith/Hawkesbury area). I’ve not heard a single complaint about reflection.

    Yep, typical response for a coal town……. that happened in a town in the southwestern corner of WA somewhere, the council was downvoted to install solar panels on its offices and depots because there were “concerns” that it would send the wrong message to the locals about the area’s coal operations….. wow, how backwards….. The installation of solar panels would have save hundreds of thousands of dollars in electricity bills for the council. Hang on, isn’t that a bonus for ratepayers for the council to reduce its operation costs? Why didn’t the locals have a say in that?

    Fossil fuel adherents need to wake up…. it’s time to get off it.

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