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Sutton Solar Action Group raises concerns about solar farm proposal

Sutton Solar community consultation

Background on proposed Sutton Solar Farm:

THE SUTTON SOLAR Action Group (SSAG) has continued to express its concerns and awareness about a proposed solar farm on Tallagandra Lane, about 3.5km northeast of the ACT–NSW border.

The $150 million Springdale Solar Farm by Renew Estate is proposed to have a 30-year lifespan and would be on 350 hectares of land currently used for grazing.

SSAG, which was formed by 10 Sutton residents in November 2017, said the development was a solar-power station rather than a solar farm.

Top among the group’s concerns is the location and size of the proposal.

“We are not against the development of renewable energy technologies as an alternative to fossil fuels.

“We do, however, believe that our community is not the appropriate location for a hub of large-scale developments of this kind,” SSAG spokesperson Peter Gillett said.

The proposal will consist of more than 400,000 solar panels, which would have supporting infrastructure of commercial buildings covering 3,500m2.

sutton solar farm timeline

Mr Gillett said the area has “historically been used for primary production”.

“Its current use is rural residential, comprising small-to-medium size land holdings. With its proximity to the ACT, it will be used for residential development in the future,” he said.

Other issues of concern are return on investments to NSW residents, environmental effects and the visual impact on the eight properties that adjoin the proposed development.

Mr Gillett said if the development was approved in its current location, it would have “no positive benefits” to the residents and businesses of NSW.

“The benefits would be realised by ACT businesses and residents instead,” he said.

“We believe a power station development of this scale would have a significant positive financial and social impact if situated in an appropriate location – not within 4km of Canberra.

“The proposed development will require about 200 construction workers for a period of 12 months – if appropriately situated near a rural community, these new jobs would inject considerable trade into the local businesses,” Mr O’Shea said.

“We do, however, believe that our community is not the appropriate location for a hub of large-scale developments of this kind.”

Peter Gillett, SSAG spokesperson

Community consultation is paramount: Renew Estate

In its preliminary environmental assessment, Renew Estate stated that the proposal would align with Yass Valley Council’s economic development strategy.

“Large-scale solar farm projects have been shown to provide much-needed investment in regional areas, creating a significant source of employment and ongoing economic benefits to local communities,” they said.

Renew Estate director Byron Serjeantson said they were listening to the opinions of residents regarding all aspects of the project.

“The appropriateness of the solar farm development location is being assessed as part of the environment impact statement (EIS).

“Renew Estate identified the potential of the site based on the solar resource and climate, site topography and existing electrical infrastructure with sufficient connection capacity and growing electrical demands,” he said.

The Yass Valley Council economic development strategy was also cited, with Mr Serjeanston saying “it identified the region as being a potentially a significant producer of renewable energy from solar sources due to its location, topography and climate”.

Renew Estate is currently undertaking specialist studies in biodiversity, flooding and hydrology, cultural heritage, bushfire, visual amenity, noise and vibration, soils, contamination, waste, utilities, socio-economic, traffic, land use, air quality and electromagnetic fields.

Proposed location an RU1 zone

The proposal is located on land zoned RU1 – primary production under the Yass Valley Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2013.

Electrical generation is not listed as permissible with consent in this zone; however, the State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) (ISEPP) 2007 takes precedence over the LEP to the extent of any inconsistency and permits solar developments with development consent in the RU1 zone.

Yass Valley Council’s director of planning Chris Berry said Renew Estate has had further consultation with the council about the EIS.

“Largely around road issues (upgrades and access), community enhancement schemes, update on community consultation to date,” Mr Berry said.

He said there were no major concerns at this stage as the details of the proposal have not yet been developed.

Future steps

Public exhibition will be up to the Department of Planning, which will depend on when Renew Estate finalise their proposal and lodge their EIS.

Mr Serjeantson said the EIS  was part of the larger State Significant Development (SSD) application.

“The specialist studies informing the EIS are still being finalised, and the SSD application will be lodged after the EIS is complete.

“Following lodgement, the EIS will be exhibited on the NSW Major Projects Planning Portal,” he said.

“The specialist studies informing the EIS are still being finalised.”

Byron Serjeantson, Renew Estate director

During the exhibition period, Renew Estate will be hosting a second community drop-in information session for the general public.

Moving forward, Mr Gillett said they were waiting for the project DA to be lodged before taking further steps.

“When that happens, we will then make an assessment of the professional support and advice we will need to make our response, bearing in mind the local residents will be financing this ourselves so our funds will be limited,” he said.

By Toby Vue, Yass Tribune, 13 Feb 2018

ABOVE: Community Consultation: A Sutton resident (left) talks with one of the directors of Renew Estate
during the initial community session in December 2017. IMAGE: Toby Vue

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