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Sun. May 19th, 2024

Plans for three more solar farms to be developed in the New England are currently on exhibition and open for comment.

The three projects are the Sundown Solar Farm in Inverell Shire, the Middlebrook Solar Farm and the Bendemeer Solar Farm in the Tamworth Regional Council area. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for each is currently available and inviting public comment on the Planning NSW portal for major projects.

Sundown Solar Farm is a proposal for a 360MW solar farm with a large battery and associated infrastructure. It is located at Spring Mountain, 30km east of Inverell and 36km west of Glen Innes, and within the New England Renewable Energy Zone. The existing Transgrid transmission line traverses the site. As the site is currently farmland and most native woodland was cleared long ago, the biodiversity impact is small. Changes were made to the project plan to protect previously undocumented Aboriginal heritage sites and scarred trees. The project will include an upgrade to the Gwydir Highway/Spring Mountain Road intersection. Few comments are expected on this uncontroversial project, with comments closing this Thursday August 3. Read more.

By contrast, oppostion has already been voiced against Middlebrook Solar Farm. This is a 320MW proposed to be built on Middlebrook Road at Loomberah, and come up a few times in the State election campaign with various candidates vowing to oppose it. The concerns raised by neighbours of the project seem to be one of views and surrounding property values, rather than environmental impact. Like Sundown, the land is currently cleared agricultural land, but, situated 22kms south of Tamworth, it is not in the New England Renewable Energy Zone. Comments on this project close Friday August 4. Read more.

Bendemeer Solar Farm is slightly smaller at 210MW, located on the Oxley Highway just 1.8km east from the Bendemeer village centre. It will comprise 430,000 panels over 600 hectares and also include a battery system. While the environmental and heritage impacts will be minimal, there is likely to be concern raised given how close it is to the population centre. This site will also have a wind farm, but this is not included in the current proposal. Comments close on this project on August 23. Read more.

There are many other projects in the pipeline, with no clear indicator as yet as to why some are opposed, while others enjoy extraordinary social licence. Generally, solar farms have been well supported while larger scale wind farms with significant environmental impact, like Winterbourne near Walcha and Hills of Gold near Nundle, have been the most strongly opposed projects.

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