Community Forums on the development of solar farms being developed over thousands of hectares of agricultural land across the state begin this week in Bundaberg.
The Forums start in Bundaberg tomorrow and will run in the solar hot spots of Townsville, Dalby, Emerald, Mackay.
There’s currently five solar farms in operation in Queensland, 16 large-scale solar farms under construction and another 40-plus potentials, according to the Energy Minister Anthony Lynham.
Currently, local governments assess applications for solar farms under their local and farming organisations are keen to see that changed to a state process. schemes.
Dr Georgina Davis, from Queensland Farmers’ Federation, says new guidelines are much needed but also need to be more stringent.
“Here in Queensland large-scale solar facilities are code assessable. So, the primary accessor is actually local government. These guidelines are literally just that, they’re guidelines. There is nothing in the first or second parts of the guidelines that is actually mandatory.”
“At the moment there doesn’t seem to be any kind of change planned for the planning legislation, so these types of facilities would continue to be assessed by local government or local council.”
Dr Davis says in New South Wales large-scale solar facilities are impact assessable which means analysis and assessment of the developments are done by State Government.
“Queensland Farmers’ Federation is still pushing for a code. At the moment in Queensland we have a code for wind development.”
“The benefits of having some code over simple guidelines is the criteria specified in a code would be mandatory rather than just referring to best-practice guides.”
Since 2000, Queensland has lost 100,000ha of agricultural land to non-agricultural development.
Dr Davis says the QFF wants to see a system that ensures project proponents must show they’ve looked at other blocks of land before they look at agricultural land.
“We want to make sure that what the draft guidelines do, or any subsequent codes, is make sure there’s no adverse impacts onto neighbouring and adjacent landowners that would impact their ability to do farming.”
Despite these concerns, Dr Davis said most farmers were very welcoming of large-scale solar.
When all these projects are completed and operating at peak capacity these solar farms can collectively generate about 1200 megawatts of renewable energy according to the Minister.
That figure, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, will see sufficient renewable energy generated at peak to power approximately 194,000 homes.