Council gives its blessing to solar farm

David Braithwaite

THE $125 million solar farm proposed for Perry Bridge will be a step towards Wellington Shire becoming a leader in renewable energy, according to a councillor.

Wellington Shire Council approved its submission for the planning permit application being considered by the state Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning.

In the submission, council supported the solar farm, proposed by Solis Renewable Energy for 93 hectares of farmland on Bengworden Rd.

The facility will include more than 100,000 solar panels, generating 44 megawatts, enough to power about 13,000 homes according to Solis RE, as well as ancillary battery storage.

The proponents claim the project will lead to reductions of 72,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually for the 30 years of operation.

Cr Carolyn Crossley described the solar farm as “an incredibly exciting project”, with similar projects to come.

“It’s perhaps the harbinger of things to come,” she said.

“It was certainly highlighted in the Gippsland Regional Plan that was published last year, and actually supported by the state and federal governments in that Gippsland is now a renewable energy zone.

“This is what we’ll say will hopefully be the first stage.

“I know Solis RE is certainly looking at other developments in the shire.”

Cr Crossley said examples of similar projects around the world showed farming practices would not be affected by the solar farm.

“Farming practices, certainly grazing sheep which is normally in this area, is actually enhanced by having these solar panels there,” she said.

“At the end of its life, which is probably 30 years of operation on this particular facility (although it may be upgraded to have a longer life), it resorts back to ordinary farmland.”

The construction phase could create 88 jobs, plus ongoing employment.

Cr Crossley said Solis RE had been in discussions with TAFE Gippsland regarding training to help create a skilled workforce.

The project has already been the subject of community consultation, as well as sessions in Stratford and Sale, where details of the project were displayed.

DEWLP is accepting submissions for the planning application until Friday.