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Majura Solar farm puts brake on high-speed rail: Canberra airport

Canberra airport's managing director Stephen Byron.

Canberra airport's managing director Stephen Byron. Photo: Graham Tidy

Canberra Airport says a proposed solar farm at Majura is contrary to plans for a major transport corridor, including a high speed train.

The airport criticised the proposed solar farm last week saying glare from solar panels under the northern landing approach to runway 17 could cause flash blindness for pilots.

Managing director Stephen Byron said the airport had been consulted and had subsequently supported three other solar farms in the territory, but had not been consulted on the Majura development.

Now the airport is widening its criticism, saying the 13-hectare solar plant is proposed on land set aside for the ACT's alignment of a future high speed train.

A consortium which wants to develop the 4MW solar photovoltaic farm under the ACT government's medium-scale solar feed in tariff program rejects the airport's claims.

The land is leased by Majura Winery and stands between the new parkway and Majura Road. It is subject to approval from the federal government's National Capital Authority and the ACT government.

The proponent's spokesman Angus Gemmell says the Civil Aviation Safety Authority does not believe there is a risk to aircraft.

He said the preferred route for any future high speed train was on the other side of Majura Parkway and the site of the development was the least preferred.

The airport has written to the ACT government asking for planning status of the land, and what conditions will change if a power generation station is approved.

Mr Byron said a withdrawal clause in the site's lease could at some point allow for expansion of road works associated with the new Majura Parkway, or a future high speed train.

''Why let someone build a solar farm, a long-term investment with returns over 50 to 100 years, on an area which has a withdrawal clause?

''It is just a contradiction,'' Mr Byron said. He said the proponents only had to move 500 metres to the left or right and they would not be under a flight path.

Mr Byron said the government was building a bridge worth between $8 million to $10 million to access the winery after the construction of the new parkway, presumably for tourism.

''If the (Majura) winery turns (the land) into a solar farm, they won't need the $10 million bridge, will they?''

Mr Gemmell said if the federal government's preferred high speed train route was changed at any stage in the future to the least preferred alignment across the solar farm site, there was enough room to move infrastructure to accommodate it.

''Canberra Airport can be assured the presence of a solar farm is not going to jeopardise any very fast train at any time in the future.''

Mr Gemmell said CASA provided written confirmation to the National Capital Authority that they had looked at reports on solar farms and were satisfied they presented no risk to airport safety.

''I think Canberra Airport have been given a copy of that,'' he said.

15 comments

  • Solar panels absorb visible light! There will be no glare! If there was glare, they would be complete failures at doing their job.

    Commenter
    solar_nick
    Date and time
    September 16, 2013, 7:46AM
    • They aren't a black hole solar_nick. They usually have glossy glass/plastic covers, so there will be reflected light from the sun, however fleeting to a fast moving aircraft.

      As has been pointed out elsewhere, the sea and rivers also reflect the sun, so the argument is pretty minor.

      Commenter
      Reality Bites
      Date and time
      September 16, 2013, 1:40PM
    • The difference I think the airport is making is that unlike sea and rivers, these are a field of uniform reflection surfaces... which has a cumulative effect across the fields, increasing the intensity of the flash when it does occur.
      Waters bodies are rarely dead calm to the point of glassiness on most days; therefore, do not have the same cumulative reflective effect.
      That said, the solar farms claim the glass/plastic coverings of the solar panels are far below that of water, so aren't a problem. So take you're pick on who you think is right.

      Just shows what cheapskates developers are that they always have to do something in the land near the airport where property is cheaper than anywhere else in Canberra.

      Commenter
      Phisocat
      Date and time
      September 16, 2013, 2:23PM
  • Come on Stephen, why don't you come out with the real reason that you don't want the solar farm there? First you trot out aircraft hazard. When that doesn't work, you trot out an expensive bridge to the winery, then follow it up with moving the solar farm 500 metres!
    If you have problems, why don't you "move the flight path 500 metres to the left or right"?
    At the present, aircraft fly down the valley and have to bank to align themselves with the runway. Why not have them come in at a steeper approach angle lining up with the runway further out?
    When will you tell us the true reason Stephen?

    Commenter
    limojoe
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    September 16, 2013, 8:46AM
    • This guy would whinge if he was making thousands of dollars off Canberrans everyday. Oh wait....

      Commenter
      Wally
      Location
      Pialigo
      Date and time
      September 16, 2013, 9:33AM
      • A high speed rail line should not be going through the Majura Valley to the airport. A rail line should run through the northern outskirts of the ACT to avoid an unnecessary 15km to the airport and back.

        Commenter
        Mike
        Date and time
        September 16, 2013, 9:51AM
        • Surprise surprise, Stephen Byron whinging about something because he doesn't like the way it affects his little toy airport.

          Commenter
          Pete
          Date and time
          September 16, 2013, 10:33AM
          • Pete, you just get to a point in your life when you get sick of this person bitching because something doesn't suit him.
            I like many have several things in ACT that don't suit me but try getting some press about it.

            Commenter
            NITRO GANGSTER
            Date and time
            September 16, 2013, 11:34AM
          • I completely agree Nitro. It's a bit like a car alarm that just continues to go off - after a while you just ignore it and don't listen/react to it anymore. :)

            Commenter
            Pete
            Date and time
            September 16, 2013, 3:59PM
        • Byron - the world doesn't revolve around Canberra Airport.

          Try and rise above it and accept Solar Energy is fo the good of the community and the environment.

          Commenter
          View
          Date and time
          September 16, 2013, 11:36AM

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