Neighbours’ objections fail to stop new Tailem Bend solar farm
Residents worry that Golden Invest's solar farm on Mayfield Road will ruin their area's serenity.
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How many solar farms is too many?
Residents of an area east of Tailem Bend have been left asking that question after the Coorong council’s assessment panel approved a new solar farm off Mayfield Road on Friday.
The new one will be almost 20 times smaller than Vena Energy’s nearby facility, the one plainly visible from the Dukes Highway.
But neighbours say that’s not the point.
Solar panels will be installed about 70 metres from the nearest house, and the rumble of trucks along Mayfield Road – a single-lane track – during construction will ruin the serenity of the area, they say.
“I’m glad my departed missus isn’t here for this,” neighbour Richard Hearne told the council’s assessment panel on Friday, his eyes full of tears.
“It would have been terribly upsetting for her to have this kind of disturbance this late in our lives.”
Deb McPherson’s family has farmed a property just up the road for a century.
“How many solar farms are going to be allowed on primary production land?” she asked the panel.
Approving the development would show a lack of consideration for the inter-generational landowners in the area, and could “threaten the proper function and rendering of the rural landscape”.
Toni Wallace worried that some of the trees she had planted along the roadside over the past 25 years might need to be removed.
None of the residents objected to solar power as an industry; they just didn’t want a facility built on their quiet road.
Planning consultant Damian Dawson said his clients, Golden Invest Pty Ltd, would take all those concerns into account.
He noted that solar farms were among the types of development envisioned for a rural zone, particularly under the new planning laws which came into effect in the Coorong district last year.
Despite residents’ suggestions, there was no requirement for solar panels to be located 500 metres away from the nearest house, he said.
The assessment panel’s four members spent some time talking about whether the developer should use an alternative access point to reach the land, going across the paddocks from the Mallee Highway instead of down Mayfield Road.
But, in the end, all four – including Councillor Brenton Qualmann – voted to approve it anyway.
The development will be subject to a number of conditions, including a requirement that the developers return Mayfield Road to its present condition when they are finished.
This is becoming a pattern
A number of solar farms of a similar size, just under the five-megawatt threshold, have popped up in the Murraylands in recent years.
Another one, on Gypsum Road at Cooke Plains, is currently awaiting approval.
As well as the larger Tailem Bend solar farm, grid-scale projects are planned at Pallamana, Tepko and Mannum, while businesses such as SA Water and Beston Global Foods have also turned to solar to power their local operations.