Have a say on solar rules

By Shepparton News

A set of guidelines to inform the Victorian councils regarding large-scale solar applications were much needed.

With the draft Solar Energy Facilities — Design and Development Guidelines being released for comment this week, it will ensure there is an overall approach to granting or refusing applications into the future.

It became apparent these guidelines were sorely needed when Greater Shepparton City Council was hit with an influx of solar farm applications, many of which were mooted to be established on valuable irrigated land.

While The News supports any form of renewable energy, there must be consideration of the land on which it is constructed.

Greater Shepparton is heavily reliant on its position as the ‘‘food bowl’’ of the state, with quality fresh produce pouring out of the area.

Many farmers and orchardists rely on irrigation and, therefore, irrigated land is of the utmost value.

It, therefore, made sense when the Victorian Government announced it had approved only one of the four applications called in by Planning Minister Richard Wynne that were previously with Greater Shepparton City Council.

The approved facility at Congupna does not fall into irrigated land and, therefore, the community was largely in favour of the project.

The more contentious proposals for Tallygaroopna, Lemnos and Tatura East might need to wait until the guidelines have been set in stone.

The News encourages the community to take a look at the draft guidelines and provide feedback before the cut-off date in March next year.

This indicates it will still be quite some time before we see a set of finalised guidelines that local councils can use to inform solar application decision-making into the future.

As the minister pointed out during his media rounds this week, the state has already established a solid set of guidelines when it comes to wind-generated energy but lacked anything surrounding solar energy.

With renewable energy becoming more of a focus throughout the state and nationally, there will only be more applications to come across council planning departments — and good guidelines will ensure this means solar farms are not developed on irrigated land.