The Victorian State Government has released draft Guidelines for the assessment of large-scale solar energy facilities in Victoria. The following aspects of the draft Guidelines are of particular interest.
Land use planning
A proponent is encouraged to consider initially multiple sites within a region in order to assist with establishing the most suitable site.
The proponent should consider:
- how the facility could contribute to the agricultural economy by providing energy security or an alternative income stream?
- how the facility could be decommissioned and the land rehabilitated in the future to an agreed standard?
Heritage and Diversity
The proponent needs to consider as appropriate, heritage and biodiversity matters.
Landscape values and amenity considerations
Ideal sites should:
- not be located on land that is of high agricultural quality;
- comprise flat, low lying topography and not be visible from surrounding areas;
- include appropriate setbacks from residential and other sensitive land uses;
- have the potential to be screened with areas of vegetation;
- have the potential for visual corridors to be maintained along key sightlines.
Cumulative effect of solar energy facilities in an area
The effect of clustering solar facilities in the one area can provide efficiencies ( such as haring existing infrastructure) but can increase visual impact. The proponent of a facility near existing facilities therefore will need to consider cumulative impacts.
With little guidance to date in the Victorian planning system on location criteria for these facilities, proponents are in limbo and Collie welcomes the preparation of the Guidelines.
Having in mind the difficulties proponents often face with securing an appropriate site and the time involved, the requirement in the draft Guidelines to consider multiple site locations is onerous and in our view irrelevant if a suitable site is selected in the first place.
At this stage it is unclear how the Guidelines will be implemented however, we presume that once finalised, they will be included in the Victorian Planning Schemes. The draft Guidelines are available for comment until 1 March 2019 (see link below).