The 165 MW solar farm near Gunnedah was given the go-ahead following careful consideration of all the evidence and weighing the community’s views, subject to conditions, the state’s Independent Planning Commission (IPC) said on Tuesday. Those conditions refer to flood management plans, visual impacts, heavy vehicle traffic and land use.
For instance, it is pointed out solar panels should be installed at a distance from the project boundary, and their height and the proposed vegetation screening should appropriately screen the site. The Commission has also amended the conditions of consent to ensure that local roads, at the time of any future upgrading or decommissioning, would be upgraded as necessary to support such activity.
On top of that, the project developer, Netherlands-based renewables developer Photon Energy, will be required to submit a decommissioning and rehabilitation plan to ensure that the site is restored post operation to its pre-existing agricultural capability.
The Gunnedah solar farm case ended up with the IPC after the NSW Department of Planning and Environment received more than 25 public objections, which is the threshold for the referral. From then on, the Commissioners met with the applicant, representatives of the Department and Gunnedah Shire Council, and visited the proposed site and neighboring properties.
They also held a public meeting in Gunnedah in November last year to listen to the community’s concerns which centered around potential flood risks, land-use compatibility, heavy vehicle movements, and negative impacts on visual amenity and local property prices.
The final decision on “the state significant development application“ finally came on Tuesday, alongside the conditions of consent imposed by the Commission, which it says are “designed to prevent, minimize and/or offset adverse environmental impacts and impacts on the community.”
The project is expected to generate an estimated 293,000 GWh of electricity a year. Construction is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of this year and take 12-14 months with around 100 jobs created during the works.
Another 170 MW solar farm in NSW proposed by Photon Energy, alongside Chinese module maker and project developer Canadian Solar and investment company Polpo, was recently greenlit without a murmur. The Suntop project is part of the deal between Photon Energy and Canadian Solar sealed last year, to codevelop five NSW solar farms with the accumulated capacity of 1.14 GW.