Solar farm gets tick of approval despite community concern

A $400 million solar farm proposed for Walla Walla in the state’s south has been given the green light by the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission (IPC).

Key points:

  • A 300MW solar farm proposed for Walla Walla has been approved
  • It was referred to the NSW Independent Planning Commission following opposition from the community and Greater Hume Shire council
  • A final decision is yet to be made on three other solar farms proposed for the shire

The 300-megawatt operation is one of four projects proposed for the Greater Hume Shire, with others put forward in Jindera, Glenellen and Culcairn.

The IPC assessed the project following strong opposition from the Greater Hume Shire Council and the local community.

Sharon Feuerherdt is a farmer in the shire and raised concerns about the environmental impacts it could have.

“I know there’s a lot of valuable agricultural land there that has a really good ability to produce,” she said.

The Walla Walla solar farm will occupy more than 600 hectares of agricultural land.

Woman in purple top and sunglasses on head. Hay in background with machinery.

Sharon Feuerherdt said she was worried the impacts from a proposed solar farm next to her property will change production ability.(Supplied: Sharon Feuerherdt)

The planning department received 150 community submissions, 85 of which objected to the project.

The project is projected to create over 250 jobs during construction as well as ongoing operation roles.

“I understand there will be a short-term bang with construction,” Ms Feuerherdt said.

“It’ll be beneficial for some people around the Albury area but the long-term agricultural production, I think is being underestimated.”

Other three could be approved

Mayor Heather Wilton said she was happy a decision had finally been made.

“It’s been a dramatic experience, but I think we’ll end up being in a good place with it all,” she said.

Arial view map of proposed site.

Green shows vegetation that will be kept on the 605-hectare site.(Supplied: Independent Planning Commission)

Council was in opposition to the proposal, but Cr Wilton said she believed the concerns raised have been acknowledged by the department.

“We’ve now got quite a good proposal,” she said.

Cr Wilton said it was “quite likely” the other three proposals would also receive the green light.

“We’re all part of a big community called Australia and we’ve all got to try to get good outcomes for our communities and our region.

“This is one of those that will service into the future.”

Ms Feuerherdt said she believed it was possible to have the best of both worlds if solar developments were located in less productive agricultural areas.

“We [can] put grid lines to the right places and still allow for food production,” she said.

“It seems hypocritical to me to sort of destroy our environment to save it.”

Lohit Soundarajan

Founder , Editor Tech Guy #Voxguy

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