ACT News


Bright lights put living with solar farms in perspective

What was once a country lifestyle with stunning views has been turned upside down for Jennifer Howlett with the arrival of a large-scale solar array, now sitting glaringly in view.

''It's changed my entire plans for my future,'' she said. ''I've just put everything on hold.''

Ms Howlett has lived in Royalla on the Old Cooma Road near Tuggeranong for 35 years, where she has a heritage-listed home.

Now, her early evening glass of wine on the verandah comes with the glare from a paddock of solar panels, which gets worse the more panels are added, with the Royalla farm due to be operating by the end of the year.

Concerns about the positioning of solar farms in the region come as the ACT government announced on Thursday that it was calling for expressions of interest to find sites for a next-generation solar farm able to produce 50 megawatts of power.

There are already three big solar projects approved in the territory - the Royalla scheme, and those to be built at Mugga Lane and Uriarra.


Ms Howlett's home is directly across the Monaro Highway from the farm, the properties separated, she said, by about 100 metres. She cannot see the highway from her property because of greenery, but looks directly down on the paddock containing the solar array.

''It was just a lovely mountain view, just a glorious view,'' she said. ''I would just sit at the verandah and everybody would come and have lunch … and marvel at the view.''

Ms Howlett has just built a new house near the old with the same view. She had planned to move in and sell the historic home, but the estate agents told her they could not sell the old home until something was done about the solar glare.

Fotowatio Renewable Ventures won a 20-year deal with the government to feed in solar energy to the grid at a guaranteed price.

A spokesman, who did not want to be named, said the company was investigating the concerns of two residents. He would not give details but said there would be vegetation screening and the company would comply with conditions about glare on the Monaro Highway.

Ms Howlett is anxious to ensure screening is on her property. And she wants mature planting.

''Vegetation screening will certainly be a huge help,'' she said. ''But there's no point them giving me tube stock. I'll be dead long before the trees are growing.''

The company has claimed the solar farm would have a low visual impact and the dark colour of the panels would blend with the foliage of Rob Roy Mountain. It also claimed the panels would not produce glare.

Ms Howlett predicted Uriarra residents could face a similar surprise. ''I am for clean energy and I think solar energy is probably a good thing, however I think it should be done out of the away of residential areas. Uriarra village, I think, is going to be same story as I've got here - people who spent a lot of money on houses and are really enjoying the rural aspect are suddenly finding they don't have one any more.''


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