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Bright lights put living with solar farms in perspective

Resident of the heritage listed property, Green Gables, on Old Cooma Road, Royalla, Jennifer Howlett, has an uninterrupted view of the Royalla Solar Farm under construction.

Resident of the heritage listed property, Green Gables, on Old Cooma Road, Royalla, Jennifer Howlett, has an uninterrupted view of the Royalla Solar Farm under construction. Photo: Graham Tidy

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.

The glare.

The glare. Photo: Graham Tidy

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.''

41 comments

  • A coal mine would be much more attractive and less noisy and smelly. Tell em to plant some tress to block it

    Commenter
    Franky
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    March 07, 2014, 7:53AM
    • From the look of the angle, a medium sized hedge would be more than efficient to block the panels but keep the view.

      Commenter
      I'm not giving my name to a damn machine!
      Date and time
      March 07, 2014, 11:46AM
    • I find massive high voltage grid power lines far more attractive than Wind Farms or solar PV. This in my opinion is obviously an ideology thing, in a similar way to a christian church goer, might not like a rainbow flag flying across the road. People pay millions of dollars for Sydney views that have massive glass skyscrapers reflecting the sun into their apartments of an afternoon. Unfortunately she does not own the property next door, so does not have rights over it. Its the same for every other Australian citizen.

      Commenter
      Urban Off-gridder
      Date and time
      March 07, 2014, 12:34PM
  • Thank you for printing this article that truly highlights some of the impacts of living within 100 meters from a solar farm. Uriarra is all for green energy, we just want it placed in appropriate areas that are not so close to residences. There should be decent setbacks of at least 1 to 2 kms for all of Canberra so no one is adversely impacted. If you live in an outlying suburb you should be watching the ACT Govt very closely as your suburb could be next in the long list of renewable plans.

    Commenter
    Jess
    Date and time
    March 07, 2014, 8:02AM
    • How many times does it need to be said - you do not own your view! If you bought a place because of a view, more fool you because you have no control over what happens with that view. If you want to control your view, buy all the land that you can see.

      Commenter
      Jane2
      Date and time
      March 07, 2014, 8:23AM
      • Quite correct. Your view is not really yours.
        I had a similar problem in Sydney in Coogee. I had a lovely apartment overlooking a green gully with ocean views. after ten years trees grew and my view was blocked.
        It was tough luck but I did not expect everyone between me and "MY" view to cut their trees down so I could enjoy "MY" view.
        Grow up Mrs Howlett. Stop being a NIMBY.

        Commenter
        snifferdog
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        March 07, 2014, 9:15AM
      • Totally agree...well said.

        Commenter
        Dr
        Location
        ACT
        Date and time
        March 07, 2014, 10:12AM
    • Perhaps it should be replaced with a coal fired power plant. Everything would be OK then. I live in the city, I've got power lines and transformers and all sorts of things blocking my view. I have to plant trees and shrubs to hide them, but I'm not asking any infrastructure to be removed, other people depend on it. If no-one is going to make and effort with alternative energy then I think they should also pay more for the destruction of life. I'm so sick of these stories whether they be solar panels or wind turbines. All Abbott created too, since some Australians still don't seem to understand that global warming is real, yet nearly every week another report comes out confirming scientists predictions.

      From the picture a few well planted trees could solve the problem entirely. Just do like the rest of us have to do.

      Commenter
      Rob
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      March 07, 2014, 8:55AM
      • Three things... One. Plant a row of suitable trees designed to block out just the solar farm. Two. Horses for courses, I actually like the look of initiatives that are doing something about sustainability. Three. In another scenario it could just as easily have been a new suburb, (and eventually it no doubt will be). That would make the impact of this solar farm look mild in comparison. Oh, and a bonus four... agree with Jane2 you don't own your view.

        Commenter
        John D
        Location
        Royalla area
        Date and time
        March 07, 2014, 9:12AM
        • Strewth! Talk about an arrogantly misplaced sense of entitlement. The woman even lives in a 'listed' home. Get over it: it is only a first world problem of little consequence.

          Commenter
          geoff
          Location
          Raglan
          Date and time
          March 07, 2014, 9:15AM

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