THE proposed 60MW solar farm on 166 Marnane Road, Tolga had its application approved for a development permit at the most recent Tablelands Regional Council (TRC) meeting.
The proposed solar farm site will consist of approximately 240,000 solar panels that will provide an energy production equivalent to that of 5,000 households – and will be situated on 125 hectares of freehold land.
The project will be undertaken by Atherton Solar Farm, a renewable energy development, investment and operational company specialising in large scale renewable energy and storage projects.
TRC councillors Kate Eden, Dave Bilney, Samantha Banks and Mayor Joe Paronella voted in favour of approving the development’s application.
“I strongly support renewable energy,” Cr Eden said.
“I believe that renewable energy must be the way of the future – renewable energy is a good practical use of rural land where other forms of production are not particularly viable.
“I have listened to the objections and I do understand the possible impact on visual amenity, and I suppose this is not my preferred location for a solar farm, however as the property owner the applicant has the right.”
Cr Banks echoed Cr Eden’s sentiments.
“In principle I am quite supportive of this so I feel quite comfortable that the officers have conditioned the development,” she said.
“I too have had a site visit and I could see that with the additional plantings that the visual impact should hopefully be reduced in time.”
While a concerted push is being made towards a greater renewable energy presence on the Tablelands, concerns have been raised as it relates the location of the project.
Cr Katrina Mellick was the only councillor to vote against approving the development.
“I have really deliberated over this item,” she said.
“I too am a strong supporter of alternative energy sources including solar and believe they have a place in the TRC future; however I hold a relatively high level of discomfort with this application.
“I appreciate that the applicant and the officers have worked really hard to try and find a positive outcome for this proposal, but to me it simply doesn’t sit right.”
“For me, this is the right development at the right time, but I just can’t see that it’s the right location as it is wedged between rural and rural-residential properties.”
Cr Mellick said there are so many areas in our region that would lend themselves to this type of development without such an impact on others.
“So for me, I’m afraid I’m just not convinced,” she said.
Councillors Owen Byrnes and Annette Haydon left the meeting as they had a perceived conflict of interest.