The 68 MW Congupna solar farm is expected to drive around $38 million in capital expenditure, create around 250 jobs and power approximately 22,600 homes.
The project was approved by the Victorian state government on Monday, as one of the four solar farms planned for the same area, governed by Greater Shepparton Council.
The approval came months after four solar farm permit applications had been called in by the state planning minister, amid opposition from local farmers to solar developments on prime agricultural land.
As the only farm to be built on non-irrigated agricultural land, the Congupna project approval was uncomplicated. However, the approval of other proposed projects – including Tallygaroopna (30 MW), Lemnos (100 MW) and Tatura East (45 MW) – has been procrastinated.
According to the government’s statement, a decision on the Tallygaroopna, Lemnos and Tatura East solar farm applications has been deferred until further strategic work is completed for the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District.
“We’re working with industry and community to make sure solar farm developments deliver the right outcomes for communities, the environment and jobs,” Minister for Planning Richard Wynne said.
Alongside the project approval announcement, Minister Wynne released the draft Solar Energy Facilities – Design and Development Guidelines for comment.
The draft guidelines will help inform councils, developers and communities on planning requirements for the large solar farm facilities.
The guidelines aim to ensure the solar projects are built in the right locations, are easily accessible to the grid and that proposals give careful consideration to high productivity agricultural areas and sensitive landscapes.
“These new guidelines will provide more certainty to the community, and more confidence to invest in major solar farms like the one at Congupna,” said Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio.
The Solar Energy Facilities – Design and Development Guidelines are open for public comment until 1 March 2019 at www.planning.vic.gov.au/policy-and-strategy/solar-energy-facilities-design-and-development-draft-guidelines.