Major solar project in Victoria panned by state arbitrator

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The Bookaar Solar Farm is a joint project of Infinergy Pacific and the site’s landowners, Liberal MP Stewart McArthur and his family. Source: Infinergy

A 200MW solar project planned for Victoria, southern Australia, has been denied planning permission by the state's planning arbitrator.

In its decision, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) deemed the hydrological and bushfire assessments in the project proposal for the Bookaar Solar Farm “inadequate” and said it had concerns about the proposal’s overall lack of detail.

“The tribunal acknowledges that a detailed plan is not required for all of the technical assessments, and that the applicant needs to maintain some flexibility in the final layout of the solar panel arrays to take account of emerging technology,” the report on the decision reads. “However, the substituted plans […] show little more than an outline of the site.” It said that the project's backers must submit a fresh planning permission application for the proposal to be reconsidered.

Bookaar was referred to the VCAT after Corangamite Shire council denied the project planning permission in September 2018 on several grounds, but in particular that the plant would monopolise agricultural land.

The Bookaar Solar Farm is a joint project of Infinergy Pacific and the site’s landowners, former Liberal MP Stewart McArthur and his family. They estimate that the project will generate up to 420GWh annually for 30 years and want to deploy 700,000 solar panels across the 558-hectare site. The array will be connected to an existing 220kV transmission line that cuts through the site.

Speaking at the time of the initial rebuff, Infinergy spokesperson Richard Seymour noted that the farm is a “temporary structure and it would only take 0.2% of available agricultural land in Corangamite Shire. It would have brought AU$150m of investment to the shire, generating 150 construction jobs and up to 12 full time jobs. It is clear that local people have hugely missed out.”

The company had not commented on the VCAT's decision by the time this article was published. 

Residents of Camperdown, a town 10 kilometres away from the site, have mounted fierce opposition to the solar project, citing concerns about bushfires, noise pollution, property devaluation, loss of land, water and drainage issues, and the farm’s aesthetic. The solar project would be larger than the town itself, which is roughly 400 hectares in size.

Infinergy Pacific develops solar and wind energy projects in Australia and New Zealand. It is a subsidiary of UK-based Infinergy Limited.

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