Solar energy has rewards

By Country News

Generating solar energy, from both roof-top and solar farms, is widely supported in the community.

Despite this support, there are planning objections for their siting across northern Victoria.

These objections fall into three main categories: the use of prime agricultural land and irrigation infrastructure, amenity (or ‘not in my backyard’) and adverse impacts on neighbouring production.

In our region, the Campaspe, Greater Shepparton and Moira Regional Land Use Strategy in 2008 identified ample underutilised agricultural land.

This land is both within and adjoining existing irrigation areas. The availability of productive soils has never been a limiting factor in the Goulburn Valley.

In this region it is irrigation water that makes land most productive and there will never be enough to irrigate it all.

Some land is reverting to dryland as water moves to new developments or is reclaimed to restore environmental flows.

As for the loss of amenity, the area taken up by proposed solar farms is tiny compared to other uses, and a narrow treed buffer could shield the facilities from view.

More agricultural land is being lost to other uses in the region.

Notably, urban sprawl and lifestyle blocks take land out of production permanently.

These proposed solar farms generally have a lifespan of 50 years after which the land could readily be returned to agriculture, if demand dictated.

Historically, farms produced most of their energy needs — windmills to pump water and hay to feed horses.

The majority of our region’s power needs can be supplied from solar (with storage) covering about 0.5 per cent of our land.

Our region’s energy supplies are under increasing pressure and without significant grid upgrades industrial growth will continue to be constrained.

Solar energy can alleviate some of these constraints.

The productive value from a solar farm per hectare far exceeds any form of current agricultural use and is a welcome addition to our local economy.

—Geoff Lodge

GV Community Energy

chief executive officer