Fears of so­lar im­pact on agri­cul­tural land

Western Times - - BEST OF THE WEST - Madi­son Watt Madi­son.Watt@chin­chillanews.com.au

“IT’S deja vu of the CSG in­dus­try.”

That’s how Chin­chilla cot­ton grower Brian Ben­der has de­scribed the cur­rent in­flux of so­lar en­ergy projects in the re­gion.

“I be­lieve this so­lar in­dus­try, it’s a car­bon copy of the gas in­dus­try at the mo­ment,” he said.

Last month, Mr Ben­der re­ceived a let­ter from juwi Re­new­able En­ergy, a Ger­man en­ergy com­pany, in­form­ing him of a po­ten­tial so­lar farm site near his prop­erty in Chances Plains.

He said he was dis­ap­pointed by the let­ter which did not state which block the com­pany was in­ter­ested in devel­op­ing.

The let­ter ad­vised Mr Ben­der to at­tend a com­mu­nity fo­rum dis­cussing so­lar farm de­vel­op­ment in Queens­land, held last month by the State Gov­ern­ment in Dalby, to learn more about the so­lar in­dus­try.

The ses­sion sought feed­back on draft Queens­land so­lar power guide­lines which will be fi­nalised later this year.

But Mr Ben­der said he did not feel re­as­sured about the fu­ture of the so­lar power in­dus­try, and how it might im­pact his busi­ness, af­ter the ses­sion.

While juwi Re­new­able En­ergy is yet to lodge a de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion with the West­ern Downs Re­gional Coun­cil, a spokes­woman said the com­pany was four to six weeks away from do­ing so.

Mayor Paul McVeigh said he was “pleased to hear this en­ergy com­pany is talk­ing to the com­mu­nity”.

Cr McVeigh said the coun­cil was “happy to have those com­mu­ni­ca­tions” with con­cerned res­i­dents re­gard­ing po­ten­tial en­ergy projects and said the coun­cil had pre­vi­ously been in­volved with rene­go­ti­a­tions to amend pro­ject plans.

Cr McVeigh said the coun­cil had not al­lowed so­lar farms to be built on top-qual­ity agri­cul­tural land, but so­lar farms could ben­e­fit the re­gion more than tra­di­tional agri­cul­ture.

PHOTO: MADI­SON WATT

SO­LAR BLUES: Brian Ben­der doesn't want to see so­lar farms on good agri­cul­tural land.

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