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Australia's biggest solar farm gets go ahead in ACT

Could this be the future for Canberra? An aerial view shows Germany's Lieberose solar farm, one of the world's biggest solar power plants.

Could this be the future for Canberra? An aerial view shows Germany's Lieberose solar farm, one of the world's biggest solar power plants.

Australia's largest solar farm has been given the go-ahead, with Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development Simon Corbell using his call-in powers to approve the development on Tuesday morning, angering nearby residents.

The 20-megawatt Royalla solar farm will be built on land beside the Monaro Highway in Tuggeranong, bounded to the west by the Rob Roy Nature Reserve.

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Workers install solar panels on the roof of the Palexpo Exhibition Center in Geneva.

Workers install solar panels on the roof of the Palexpo Exhibition Center in Geneva. Photo: Reuters

Mr Corbell said it ''will deliver a substantial public benefit'' in justifying his approval.

''The solar farm proposal will contribute to a reduction of around 560,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over 20 years, generating the equivalent amount of energy to power 4400 Canberra homes,'' he said. ''The Royalla solar farm will directly contribute to meeting the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set by the ACT government.''

But the development, expected to begin later this year, has been the subject of objections from Royalla residents across the NSW border with ''hundreds'' of properties overlooking the 50-hectare site.

''There's a number of us that are only a matter of 100 to 200 metres from the solar farm and the views will be terrible,'' said Jennifer, a long-term resident.

Her property will have views of the solar farm from every paddock and the heritage-listed house.

''It's a most rural vista, it's lovely [and] I think people move out to enjoy a rural lifestyle, never thinking that they'll have 83,000 solar panels in their backyard,'' she said.

''I agree with solar power, but it should be in an industrial area or in an area that does not impact on residents' houses, that's our main concern.''

''We object to the fact that Mr Corbell, when he announced it, said it would not be seen by any residential houses and would have no impact, but he was only referring to ACT residents. It has a huge impact on NSW residents.''

Royalla resident Tim Bloomfield said the consultation process was inadequate and as NSW residents, they have little power over the political process of its approval.

''All it does is build a them-and-us [divide] between the NSW side of the border and the ACT side of the border. Anything that's going to come up in the future, people one side of the border are going to say, 'Well, stuff you','' Mr Bloomfield said.

Mr Corbell said a normal public consultation process had taken place and an independent ''visual impact assessment'' had determined the views from 95 per cent of Royalla homes would be unaffected by the development.

''For a very small number of homes, there will be a low to moderate impact and for that reason I have placed conditions on the approval so that additional plantings will be put in place to help screen the development once it's in place.''

NSW member for Monaro John Barilaro said Mr Corbell's decision to use his call-in powers to approve the development ''defies belief''. ''Noble objectives should not be exempt from proper process,'' he said.

And Royalla residents were not the only ones objecting to the process, with the Conservation Council supporting the aim but also disagreeing with the minster's use of his call-in powers.

''All significant proposals such as this one should go through our environmental and planning approvals,'' director Clare Henderson said.

33 comments

  • India has discovered a sensible way to manage this problem: http://gigaom.com/2012/04/23/a-solar-canal-rises-in-india/

    Worth a try in Australia?

    Commenter
    Big Bird
    Location
    Wollongong
    Date and time
    July 02, 2013, 10:53AM
    • How much greenhouse gas is expended in making, maintaining and disposing of these panels? Another useless waste of our taxes to prove the non-viability of solar as a primary energy source. Why not provide a subsidy for Natural Gas instead? It would be as useful as a window in a submarine on a day like today. If they work so well, why aren't they spread across the Nullabor, not in foggy central?

      Commenter
      Ropable
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      July 02, 2013, 11:10AM
      • Yes , i agree, its terrible. This green conspiracy to waste energy making these unproductive panels that just cost people money to have. Why would anybody bother? These people who get panels on their houses must love throwing money away. They should be banned so we can get rid of this climate change/energy saving nonsense and start using more of the best cheap energy made from fossilised dinosaur bones and plant matter, also known as coal. Long live king coal! Viva Gina and Clive.

        Commenter
        benjamin.garden1
        Location
        campbell
        Date and time
        July 02, 2013, 12:15PM
      • i think a window would be very useful in a submarine....how would they where they were going if they had no window...

        Commenter
        gg
        Date and time
        July 02, 2013, 12:27PM
      • The facts are; solar panels release significantly less emissions compared to a natural gas or coal-fired generator, Canberra also enjoys, surprisingly, one of the highest number of sunny days annually in the country.

        Solar power is also amazingly reliable. We've been able to accurately predict the rising of the sun for hundreds of years, and it just so happens that times when the sun is shining are the times we use the most energy. This is true on small and long timeframes.

        I'm sure the Nullabor would be a great place to install solar panels, but then the question becomes how do you then get the electricity from the Nullabor to Canberra?

        2,000 km of network infrastructure isn't cheap.

        Commenter
        Kincuri
        Date and time
        July 02, 2013, 1:06PM
      • Great day for Solar today Corbell

        Commenter
        OLD DOG
        Date and time
        July 02, 2013, 1:07PM
      • The loss of electricity traveling from the Nullabor to Camberra would be significant.

        Commenter
        Chris on North Side
        Date and time
        July 02, 2013, 1:07PM
      • Nullabor? Perhaps you should look up "transmission line loses".

        Commenter
        Mick
        Location
        North
        Date and time
        July 02, 2013, 1:21PM
      • @Ropable
        - greenhouse gasses from construction/ops/removal are typically covered within 3-5 years of operations of all modern solar panels
        - It's already viable in Europe and the US and parts of China - and we get more sun under clearer skies than they do.
        - I think Natural gas is subsidised, as are all fossil fuels in Australia. Try and build a power station to take advantage of it in the ACT though and the folks close to the tip get (rightly perhaps) upset about the additional smells.
        - Lack of sunshine, Canberra is the third sunniest capital city in Australia (close behind Perth and Darwin). One foggy day/week does not ruin that, like a rainy weekend doesn't undermine a decade long drought.
        - Not in the Nullarbor, nor most of central Australia because there are no significant power lines there (indeed, any, in some areas). You've got to move the electricity to where the people are. That's also why geothermal is proving sadly expensive. Plus transmission losses add up a lot over those distances. Otherwise I'd totally agree, blanket central Oz with a few of these.
        - Windows on submarines can give an awesome view, as long as you don't open them.

        Anything else?

        Commenter
        BondageMaster
        Location
        Near Canberra
        Date and time
        July 02, 2013, 1:52PM
      • Rather than asking a question - why not find out?

        And the answer is that the lifecycle CO2 from Solar PV is very very low - less than geothermal for instance.

        So your assertion is just plain ignorance and FUD.

        Stop it! Just stop trying to ruin our country by this campaign of lies.

        They are not spread across the nullabor cause it's still cheaper to generate power closer to the place it is used.

        Mind you it is time someone built a power plant in the desert in Australia. It is now cost effective to run HVDC lines to pretty much anywhere - including say Japan.

        HVDC is now practical as the issues of things like breakers have been solved.

        BTW Energy storage is now practical and being deployed commercially in many places so your FUD about variability is also outdated.

        Lowest life-cycle CO2 is still Wind by the way - so when a wind story comes up - don't bother.

        Commenter
        richardw
        Date and time
        July 02, 2013, 2:31PM

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