Council backs solar farms

November 24, 2017

City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Kim O'Keeffe.

Councillors are celebrating a ‘‘solar city’’ return with more than $300 million and 200 megawatts of proposals across five solar farm projects being considered for Greater Shepparton.

The council on Tuesday night voted forits chief executive to request Victoria’s planning minister decide on the solar farm planning applications in Greater Shepparton.

The council also resolved to invite the minister to establish a process that provides a fair and proper opportunity for all affected stakeholders to be heard.

Background to this week’s meeting detailed that if future applications are lodged, officers propose to also refer those applications to the minister for a decision.

Five solar farm proposals — located in Tatura East, Tallygaroopna, Lemnos, Congupna and Mooroopna — have been detailed by the council in background to the meeting.

These projects would produce an estimated output of 217 megawatts and cost a total $316 million, according to council projections.

The council’s main concern with the applications is ‘‘whether the loss of productive agricultural land... for a solar farm produces acceptable planning outcomes’’.

Officers would need to consider conflicting policies and decide on net benefit, considered a difficult task.

‘‘Officers consider that the most efficient method of determining these solar farm applications... is to request (the minister) become the decision maker,’’ the report continues.

If agreed, it would ensure decisions were determined faster.

Background also refers to a sixth solar farm application, totalling 100 megawatts and worth $150 million, as being expected in about six months.

In moving the motion to refer the proposals on to the minister, Cr Dinny Adem stressed the ‘‘1000 per cent’’ support for solar farms from the council and cited the potential for applicants to get tied up in processes.

Cr Chris Hazelman agreed it was appropriate to refer the items on for government assistance in helping determine such applications.

‘‘This is really the tip of the iceberg,’’ Cr Bruce Giovanetti said, referring to renewable energy targets, predicting ‘‘huge development in this area’’.

Cr Fern Summer moved an amendment to ensure the council also helped develop a strategy to balance the existing prime agricultural land use with large-scale renewable energy applications, but did not receive support.

Following the meeting, Mayor Kim O’Keeffe spruiked the ‘‘significant investment’’ forthcoming from the proposals, which presented a valuable opportunity for the city.

Background to the meeting emphasised the motion carried by the council did not remove the opportunity of objectors to two of the projects to be heard.

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