Environment and Development Minister Simon Corbell has rejected criticism from Uriarra Village residents about no advance notice of a proposed nearby solar farm, saying the government has made no promises to the developer that their chosen site will be accepted.
The company behind the proposed 10 megawatt solar farm, Elementus Energy, met with a local delegation for the first time on Tuesday, defending its private planning for the site which it identified in 2010.
Elementus Energy's managing director Ashleigh Antflick said there was nothing to discuss with residents before last month's public announcement of their solar auction tender victory, but a plan for ongoing engagement was now in place after Tuesday's meeting with about eight village residents.
Mr Corbell said it was for the company to convince authorities its plan for the 40-hectare site - 30 kilometres west of Canberra and across the road from the village's northern edge - was satisfactory.
"The territory makes no warranty that the site the company has chosen is going to be approved," he said.
"The whole idea is that the risk is borne entirely by the developer - if the plant does not become operational, they do not get the feed-in tariff."
Mr Antflick said there were a range of processes which occurred after the Australian-owned company identified the site as appropriate in mid-2010.
"It took us some time to enter commercial terms with the landholder to further investigate the site, and over recent times we've further accelerated our site investigation - but until we won and were handed a deed on [August] 19th we were in a speculative venture," he said.
"And indeed there was nothing to talk to residents about because we had no firm [commitment] - we didn't know we had an opportunity to realise a project until the 19th."
Mr Antflick said a development application for the solar farm would be lodged with the ACT government shortly, triggering formal public consultation requirements.
"The relationship [with the village residents] has begun and it will continue to be developed and it will proceed on mutual respect and trust."
Jessie Agnew was at the meeting and is one of the members of the village body corporate's executive committee.
She said residents were thankful to be able to speak with the solar company, but remain disappointed about a lack of consultation before the successful tender announcement by the government last month, with many investing and building in the small rural village around the time Elementus Energy was doing investigations.
"I think a lot of people feel they were dudded, we were dudded by the government - and we have the right to be told about these things," Mrs Agnew said.
Mr Corbell encouraged residents to engage in the future approval processes, but said it was illogical to expect consultation by all companies bidding for the feed-in tariff. The potential loss of rural views to the north caused by the large-scale energy facility was a leading complaint at the August 25 Uriarra Village community meeting, but Mr Corbell said nearby landholders had rights to use their land like anyone else.
"The territory plan permits this type of development on rural land," he said.
"No warranty is given what can occur across the road, as long as it is consistent with the territory plan."
Mr Antflick said the photo voltaic panels - which would be between 2 and 2.5 metres high at their leading edge - would be silent.