In dark on solar sites

February 14, 2018

The dairy shed roof is covered in solar panels.

Objectors of five solar farms across the Shepparton district have called for guidelines to be created in an attempt to protect prime agricultural land across the Goulburn Valley.

A group of concerned locals sat down with Greater Shepparton councillors last week to express their concerns and both Mooroopna orchardist Peter Hall and Tallygaroopna dairy farmer Natalie Akers both said a grading system, like what is present in New South Wales and Britain, was necessary for Victoria.

‘‘Disappointingly we have no guidelines developed at state level,’’ Mrs Akers said.

‘‘There are 60 pages of guidelines if you want to build a wind farm but no guidelines for large scale solar.

‘‘The UK have developed clear guidelines where land is graded zone 1-5, with one being the most productive and five being the least productive.

‘‘Areas zoned 1 and 2 cannot have large scale solar farms,’’ she said.

Mr Hall said another concern of his was the locality of the projects.

‘‘The issue of the installation of these large projects will present elevated temperatures in day and night,’’ he said.

Agriculture is sensitive to temperature changes. Research in Arizona said that solar panels produce elevated temperatures.

‘‘More research on these affects is needed before the projects are allowed,’’ he said.

‘‘No one is against them wholesale but they just need to pick an appropriate location. At the moment the site location is demonstratively inappropriate.

Mrs Akers agreed.

‘‘All five of the proposed solar developments in Shepparton are on productive agricultural irrigation land, located on a modernised irrigation backbone.

‘‘We have a conflict of government projects, we are investing $2 billion to modernise irrigation infrastructure for the next 50 to 100 years, and now we want to put thousands of acres under solar panels with no agricultural output,’’ she said.

Despite the concerns raised, Mr Hall said he was happy he was given the opportunity from council.

‘‘I appreciate being invited and it’s a great move to consider community views on these projects and I thank council for that opportunity.’’

Fruit Growers Victoria grower services manager Michael Crisera also called on council to re-consider its approach to solar developments in key food producing areas.

‘‘Solar energy is an important part of the nations energy needs, but care should be taken that these developments aren’t detrimental to agricultural industries.’’

The proposed solar farms are located at Tatura East, Tallygaroopna, Lemnos, Congupna and Mooroopna.

Solar farm applications totalling more than $300million will be addressed at a Greater Shepparton City Council meeting this month.

The council declined to comment on the matter, and Mayor Kim O’Keeffe, when contacted, also declined to comment.

The City will have to decide on whether to give planning permission in a policy vacuum.

The council has no planning policies on solar farms to refer to, and neither does the Victorian government.

The council’s planning department has been looking at the issue of solar farms for about six months.

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