A 100MW solar farm on the outskirts of Canberra in the New South Wales Yass Valley region has been given the green light, with construction slated to begin in 2022 after the heavily contested project was granted final approvals this week.
International renewable energy developer RES said on Tuesday that the proposed Springdale solar farm had received environmental approval this week, having gained planning approval from the NSW Independent Planning Commission in February.
The project, which is to be built on farm land about 8km north west of Sutton, was acquired by RES in early 2020 from its original developers Renew Estate, despite the project proving to be unpopular with local residents.
As RenewEconomy reported this time exactly one year ago, the project – first flagged in mid-2018 – had received dozens of objections from local residents, including for being a “negative visual site” for tourists.
Among the list of objections included one from a local learner driver, who said she was concerned about the number of trucks on the road while she was having lessons. Another said solar farms posed a danger to birds.
But RES said this week that it had listened closely to local feedback and worked with the community and the Department for Planning, Industry and Environment to provide the best outcomes from the project.
These included increasing the setback of solar arrays from nearby properties, re-locating the substation to reduce visual impacts, reducing the overall size of the development footprint and increasing the vegetation screening to further reduce visual impacts.
On the environmental front, RES has committed to enhancing the habitat for the protected Golden Sun Moth, to avoiding the habitats of the Striped Legless Lizard and Superb Parrot, and to protecting and seeking to enhance the native vegetation and biodiversity of the area.
For the learner driver, traffic management measures have also been enhanced as a commitment to mitigate concerns about increased traffic on local roads during the construction period.
RES says the Springdale Solar Farm will consist of 350,000 single-axis tracking solar panels and 22 inverter stations, with the panels sufficiently elevated to permit sheep grazing to co-exist under and around them.
Approximately 50% of the wider Project site – which amounts to roughly 370 hectares – will remain undeveloped and suitable for the continuation of agricultural practices and Golden Sun Moth conservation, the company says.
“RES has demonstrated commitment to the community in which they work, with a donation to the Sutton Fire Brigade and funding to re-fence the Gundaroo Common in 2020,” a statement added.
Elsewhere in Australia, RES currently manages a portfolio of more than 900MW of wind and over 430MW of solar assets and has what it describes as a “substantive pipeline” of further renewables projects totaling 5GW.