The development of a 120 megawatt (MW) solar farm is being proposed near Sutton, about 3.5 km northeast of the ACT–NSW border.
The project, proposed by renewable energy company Renew Estate, will be situated on about 350 hectares of land that is currently used for grazing.
Site access will be via the unsealed Tallagandra Lane accessed from the east via Mulligans Flat Road.
If approved, it should produce more than 230 gigawatt-hours of renewable each year, which the proponent says should be enough electricity to power about 35,000 Australian homes over the course of a year.
Rosie King, Renew Estate’s director of engagement, said the project was in its early stages and would require a detailed process of assessment and conversation with the Sutton community.
“Renew Estate wants to make sure we plan this project to take account of the views of immediate neighbours and the community as a whole,” she said.
Ms King said the project would create new local jobs during the construction and operations phase.
Renew Estate’s preliminary environmental assessment states: “at the peak of construction, there could be up to 150–200 construction workers travelling to site each day”.
Work underway for the project includes investigations for Aboriginal heritage, biodiversity and habitat, traffic, visual impact and flood modelling.
These will be made available for discussion with the community and will form part of the application for planning consent from the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.
Residents concerned about environment, location
Nikki Lore, who lives on Tallangdra Lane at Sutton, is a member of the Sutton Solar Action Group (SSAG), which have concerns about the potential negative effects of the proposal.
Ms Lore said SSAG would be putting its own environmental report together.
“It’s the wrong place for it. We’re all for solar, but that is prime land for farming,” Ms Lore said.
She also cited other factors that need further discussion.
“The 200 construction workers are too many for that road [Tallangdra Lane] – it’s already heavily used by traffic going into Murrumbateman.
“A 20 to 30 per cent drop in property value has also been predicted.”
Ms Lore said she and a number of her neighbours have had their properties valued by a licensed valuer and real estate agents.
“As well, based on the history of some of the plants in Australia, I believe the company will likely build it up then sell it off to German or Japanese interests,” she said.
Alison Walker, president of Sutton and District Community Association Inc. (SDCAI), said they were keen to ensure that local residents and immediate neighbours were consulted and that their views considered.
“We recognise the need to explore and develop sustainable energy sources; however, the location of the farm and impact on the community needs a thorough consultation process,” Ms Walker said.
“We are pleased that Renew Estate has arranged a drop-in information session in Sutton and encourage the community to find out more,” she said.
The proposal site is zoned Primary Production (RU1) under the Yass Valley Local Environmental Plan 2013 (LEP).
Chris Berry, director of planning at Yass Valley Council, said early engagement with the local community is a requirement for all major projects and this is supported by the council.
“Planning staff have met with the proponents on a couple of occasions to identify the key local issues – these have been included in the secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements issued by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment,” Mr Berry said.
Renew Estate will be holding a community-information drop-in session at the Sutton Town Hall on Thursday, December 7.
Residents are welcomed to attend at 1pm–3pm and 5pm–8pm.
Developers will hold further information sessions early next year when information from specialist studies are available.