$768 million New England Solar Farm gets conditional approval

Aerial shot of solar fam (lightsource bp)
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New South Wales’ Independent Planning Commission has approved with conditions a new $768 million solar farm on the Northern Tablelands.

UPC Renewables Australia sought planning approval for the 720-megawatt New England Solar Farm on 3362 hectares of agricultural land, 6km east of Uralla.

The solar farm would comprise more than 2.4 million solar panels, 150 power conversion units and a lithium-ion battery storage facility. It would connect to TransGrid’s existing transmission line that transects the development site.

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment finalised its whole-of-government assessment of the proposed development in December last year.

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The state significant development (SSD) application came to the Commission for determination because 67 public objections were received during exhibition.

Commissioners Andrew Hutton (panel chair), professor Snow Barlow and professor Zada Lipman were appointed to consider the SSD application and make a final decision.

The commissioners met with UPC, department and Uralla Shire Council, and conducted an inspection of the site and surrounding area. They also held a public meeting in Uralla in February to listen to the community’s concerns, which centred on compatibility of the proposed land use, visual amenity, transport and traffic management, and decommissioning and rehabilitation.

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After carefully considering all the evidence, the Commission has today (March 9) concluded the proposed solar farm is in the public interest and determined to approve the SSD application, subject to conditions.

The commission agreed with the department’s assessment that the development “would not fragment or alienate resource lands … as the land could be easily returned to agricultural land following decommissioning, and the inherent agricultural capability of the land would not be affected.”

It also agreed with the department that the proposed exclusion zones and implementation of the recommended conditions would ensure there are “no significant visual impacts” on surrounding residences, and that the “rural character and visual quality of the area would be preserved as far as practicable”.

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