The New South Wales (NSW) Independent Planning Commission (IPC) has conditionally approved China-headquartered manufacturing giant Trina Solar’s development application for the 200 MW Glenellen Solar Farm to be built near Albury in the Riverina region.
The $250 million project, being developed on approximately 300 hectares of land near Jindera, about 16 kilometres north of Albury, had been referred to the commission for determination because at least 50 people objected to the proposed project.
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment, which completed its assessment of the Glenellen Solar Farm in October, received 107 public submissions, including 79 objections, many of them concerned about the impact on agricultural resources.
In assessing the merits of the project, the IPC found that the proposed site is “suitable for renewable energy development given its location close to existing electricity transmission networks, topography, solar resources, avoidance of major environmental constraints, access to the regional road network and that the agri-solar component [of the project] allows for the continued use of the land for grazing and cropping.”
The IPC said it acknowledged the concerns of community members but concluded the project is in the “public interest” and that the impacts of the development could be mitigated through strict conditions of consent. These include additional on-site vegetation screening and further consultation by Trina with nearby landowners on minimising visual impact.
The commission also determined that the developer must maintain the agricultural land capability of the site which has been predominantly used for grazing of sheep and cattle, with infrequent cropping of fodder to support the grazing.
Trina has already made a number of changes to the project design to address issues raised in submissions, including increasing vegetation screening around the project site, reducing the number of solar panels by about 23,000, and increasing the spacing between the rows of solar panels from six metres to nine metres to facilitate more sheep grazing.
Trina, which is aiming to deliver more than 6.5 GW of large-scale renewable projects in Australia, said sheep grazing and cropping of lucerne for fodder will be re-introduced ‘at scale’ once the Glenellen Solar Farm is complete, with the project only resulting in a 25% reduction in productive sheep carrying capacity across the site.
“Post construction, it is proposed that the balance of land that is not occupied by solar farm infrastructure would continue to be used for agricultural purposes such as sheep grazing, resulting in only a minor net change to the existing land-use situation,” the company said.
Trina also said construction of the Glenellen Solar Farm will bring considerable investment to the region with the project expected to generate about 200 jobs during the build, and up to 10 new jobs once the solar farm is operational.
The solar plant will include about 395,000 bifacial PV panels mounted on a single-axis tracking system. Once operational, the facility is expected to generate more than 440,000 MWh of clean electricity annually and will connect to the electrical grid via an existing 330 kV transmission line that directly crosses the proposed project area.
The project will be located in close proximity to the South-West Renewable Energy Zone (REZ), one of five REZs planned for NSW to host wind, solar and battery projects as the state transforms its coal-reliant energy system.
Approval from the IPC comes less than a week after it granted conditional approval for the 215 MW Oxley Solar Farm and coupled 50 MW/50 MWh battery being developed near Armidale in the state’s New England region.
The Riverina Murray region of NSW has attracted considerable interest from solar developers with three approved solar farms within 50 kilometres of the Glenellen project. These include the 130 MW Jindera Solar Farm which is located little more than 300m north-west of the Glenellen project.
Other nearby projects include FRV’s 300 MW Walla Walla Solar Farm, located approximately 18 km to the north, and French company Neoen’s 350 MW Culcairn Solar Farm and energy storage facility which is located about 21 km to the north.
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