Growcom and its members are strong supporters of renewable energy as it forms a vital part of Queensland’s energy future. However, we sound a note of caution at the rush to embrace new technologies at the expense of our agricultural production areas.
As an organisation we consider that solar plants and agriculture can co-exist, but there is currently a policy vacuum around solar planning approvals in Queensland resulting in rushed approvals with no consideration of pre-existing neighbouring farms or whether such panels are the best of use of prime agricultural land.
One of our members is at the forefront of this issue with a major solar farm being approved by a local council within 500 metres of their house with no buffer zones and inadequate consideration of overland flow.
Powerlink alone has received over 80 new renewable energy connection enquiries, totalling in excess of 15,000MW (mostly solar). Photovoltaic (PV) solar has a footprint of about 1MW=2.5Ha for solar projects.
Currently there are no guidelines for such major energy plants which is out of step with other Australian states and overseas.
Growcom and our umbrella organisation Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) are pushing government for a workable solar planning guideline by the end of the year. In the meantime we would suggest a moratorium on such developments to ensure that existing landholders are not unfairly impacted.
The guideline will in some ways act as a band-aid until the much-needed development of a fully functioning Solar Planning Code – a code of the same breadth that is currently in place and applied to windfarm applications. These codes often take years to develop but are essential in establishing a set of clear rules around future developments.
Growcom is simply asking government for a fair, reasonable, timely and considered approach to assessing the impact of the new solar developments – the same approach that we all currently expect for other energy generation projects such as gas, wind, coal-fired power stations and mining. Harnessing energy from the sun is vital for our future but not at the expense of the original solar energy converters, the plants that we eat and depend on for life itself.