Solar fast track
VCAT agrees to expedite hearing into $43m project
AN independent tribunal has agreed to fast track a civil hearing into an objection to a $43 million solar farm proposed to be developed at North Wangaratta.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) will hold its hearing on December 6 instead of February next year due to the project’s potential significance to Victoria.
Country-wide Energy (CWE) made a successful application to VCAT on September 15 that the project be recognised as a ‘major case’ and the matter brought by North Wangaratta Family Motel Inn should be brought forward.
Owner of the motel Jayson Nichols had previously lodged an objection to VCAT against the establishment of the large scale solar farm that would stretch 15 hectares adjacent to the business.
Mr Nichols cited his concerns about excessive noise generated by the 70,000 solar panels, a negative impact to tourism, and a fire hazard.
The 20-megawatt solar farm is expected to generate enough energy to power the equivalent of 5000 homes.
CWE director Geoff Drucker said his company was pleased with the result of the practice hearing earlier this month.
“It would have been a long wait until February,” he told the Wangaratta Chronicle.
“It was also pleasing that the project has been acknowledged as a ‘major case’ because of its significance to Victoria.”
Mr Drucker had said earlier that the project’s delay until February 2018 would have cost the company in the region of $15 million.
“The project is significant because Wangaratta suffers from ‘energy insecurity’ particularly in summer when businesses are asked to curtail their demand,” he said.
“It makes it very hard to keep businesses here or attract new businesses.”
Mr Nichols said he would fight the case all the way rather than let the family business die a slow death once the solar farm was built.