Community consultation is front-and-centre of the new NSW Large-Scale Solar Energy Guideline released today to inform and guide applicants and the community through the assessment process for state significant solar farm proposals.
Announcing the new Guideline, Department of Planning and Environment’s deputy secretary, Policy and Strategy, Alison Frame, said renewable energy is driving billions of dollars of investment and supporting thousands of jobs for NSW.
“Solar energy technology is an evolving industry, with a high potential for significant technological advances in the future, but the rapid growth in the pipeline of renewable energy projects across NSW highlights the need for careful management of potential impacts on surrounding areas,” Ms Frame said.
“NSW has the best sun and space for solar energy, but we need to ensure the emerging larger solar farms don’t adversely affect communities and important agricultural land.
“The growth we’re seeing in the renewable energy industry will help us reach our net-zero emissions by 2050 target, but we need to make sure we strike a balance between the benefits of solar energy projects and the interests and needs of the community.”
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Ms Frame said the guideline reflects the department’s strong commitment to the state’s booming solar energy.
“The department welcomes new private sector investment in energy projects, including solar farms, to boost supply and competition and lower energy bills,” Ms Frame said.
“Over the past five years the share of solar and wind in the NSW electricity generation mix has tripled.
“To date, the NSW Government and independent regional planning panels have approved a total of 49 large scale solar energy projects across NSW, with a total capacity of more than 3300 MW – enough to power more than one million homes.”
In the past six months, the number of operating large-scale solar projects in NSW has more than doubled, going from three to eight projects, and there are another six solar farms under construction. A further 34 are under assessment, or in the planning pipeline.
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The new guideline provides clear and consistent guidance to the community, applicants, industry and regulators on the environmental and social impacts of state significant solar energy projects and encourages early consultation, continual consultation and suitable site selection.
The NSW Large Scale Solar Guideline forms part of a suite of tools being created to help all stakeholders navigate the state’s development pipeline with consideration to economic, social and environmental concerns.
The award-winning Wind Energy Guideline was finalised in December 2016. The Department is also working on a guideline for recycling facilities, including energy-from-waste projects.