Sutton solar farm arguments for and against

The public is reminded to have its say on the Springdale Solar Farm in Sutton.

Submissions and objections on the 120-megawatt solar farm, located on 875 acres of land near Tallagandra Lane, should be submitted to Department of Planning and Environment before close of business, Wednesday August 15.

Member for Goulburn Pru Goward said, “If you want to have your say on this important proposal, you need to have a go.

“It only needs to be a few paragraphs but I assure you, your views matter.”

The solar farm’s environmental impact statement is currently on exhibition on the Department of Planning’s website, at Yass Valley Council, Sutton Post Office and Gundaroo Post Office.

What the proponent says

The proponent, Renew Estate, is working towards switch-on of the solar farm at the end of 2019, with construction to start at the beginning of the year.

If approved, Renew Estate said the Springdale Solar Farm should produce 230 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy each year, the equivalent of powering 35,000 Australian homes.

It said the main benefits of the project include reducing reliance on fossil fuels, lower power prices and providing economic benefits for the region by way of jobs, revenue share with residents and revenue to landowners.

Renew Estate has also put forward a no-strings-attached $100,000 community fund to go towards a community chosen organisation or project such as the Rural Fire Service or local Landcare group.

Former deputy chief minister of the ACT Simon Corbell, now a consultant for Renew Estate, told Yass Tribune: “I think the proposal for Springvale is really innovative. We haven’t seen solar farms sharing revenue; it’s common for projects to pay host landowners, but not to be paying neighbours.”

He also stressed the importance of moving to renewable energy.

“If Australia is to meet its Paris climate change commitments, we need to get rid of all carbon energy by middle of century. Wind and solar are the cheapest. It makes sense to do it now; we’ve got the finances and resources.”

The company further said it has had numerous face-to-face meetings with immediate neighbours to the site and that the location of the site was chosen for its proximity to communities that can benefit from the obtained energy. That’s about 3.5km northeast of the ACT–NSW border.

THE FUTURE: What the site in Sutton could look like if the Springdale Solar Farm is approved. Picture: American Public Power Associations

THE FUTURE: What the site in Sutton could look like if the Springdale Solar Farm is approved. Picture: American Public Power Associations

What the opponents say

The Sutton Solar Action Group (SSAG), however, has maintained that its issue is not with renewable energy but with the location of the solar farm.

The group said, “The local community doesn’t want Sutton to become recognised as just that place with the massive solar plant.”

With some properties situated 130m from the proposed site, residents have said they are worried about the visual impact, devaluation of properties and noise during construction.

Renew Estate environmental planner Lauren Lambert said the business understood some people would be more impacted than others.

“There will be some landscape planting to reduce the visual impact. We’ve also done a quantitative study and glare is not a thing. The panels absorb sunshine, not put out; it’s a misconception.”

SSAG has argued that the five litre potted trees Renew Estate has proposed to plant to create a boundary will take years to grow to a height that would block the view.

LAST LOOK: Neighbours to the proposed solar farm site look at their current view and wonder what will be. Picture: SSAG

LAST LOOK: Neighbours to the proposed solar farm site look at their current view and wonder what will be. Picture: SSAG

SSAG said, “No level of screening will prevent this family from looking directly at solar panels on at least two sides of their property and they will never be able to escape from the noise.”

SSAG has flagged that the proposed site by Renew Estate further fails to meet the Draft Large-Scale Solar Energy guidelines by the Department of Planning including choosing flat, low-lying topography (the proposed land is raised in parts), away from residential zones (there are 34 residences within two km of the farm, according to SSAG) and free from sites with high visibility, which there are a few.

It also doesn’t understand why Renew Estate isn’t proposing to build the solar farm in one of the three rural renewable energy sites (Hay, Dubbo and Armidale) identified by NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin.

There are also concerns from residents that the poor condition of Tallagandra Lane is not suitable for heavy loading vehicles necessary for construction.

Other views

Local resident David told Yass Tribune at the second Springdale Solar Farm community consultation on Wednesday August 8 that he saw an issue with the ability for trucks to travel on Tallagandra Lane, but Renew Estate had done an impressive job with their proposal.

As for the visual impact of the solar farm, he said: “We probably will be able to see it from our property, but that’s not an issue.”

Another resident, Jane Vincent said, “We think it’s really good because we like renewable energy.”

And local resident Josh said, it’s “Awesome for the local economy.”

Submissions and objections should be lodged online or by post. Details below: