Renewable energy company Neoen Australia has been given the green light to start the process of building a new solar farm in Goorambat.
A planning permit application submitted by the applicants was recently approved at Benalla Rural City Council’s planning and development committee meeting, with all seven councillors in agreement on the decision.
In individual addresses to the gallery, a number of councillors stressed that while they did feel for residents who are opposed to the project, they could not stand in the way of the project.
Cr Bernie Hearn said “in this day and age we need solar power” and insisted if council was to reject the application without “any good reasons”, she believed it would go straight to VCAT and pass.
The site at 379 Goorambat Chesney Rd, Goorambat, is a 630 ha piece of land currently used for farming purposes including cropping and grazing.
The project will see a 250 MW solar farm built, with more than 500 000 panels installed on the land.
Concerned neighbours present at the meeting spoke of the lack of water available in the town to address a fire risk, as well as the practicality of a tree buffer plantation the company has committed to planting around the boundary of the site.
There was also concerns over the noise levels associated with construction, the social division the project had caused in the town and the eyesore of the farm to both neighbouring properties and the risk of loss of tourism and business to the town.
Three Neoen Australia representatives were also present at the meeting, as they did their best to allay any fears of the council and concerned Goorambat residents.
Neoen’s development head Garth Heron said the area had a fantastic solar resource to pull from. He also insisted the company did not seek out the project, but that it was the developer of choice for the owners of the land.
He said the project would create eight long-term jobs at the site, and that Neoen would be in this project for the long haul.
“We are the long-term owners and operators of the project,” Mr Heron said.
“We don’t just develop projects and sell them and make a profit, we develop it and own and operate it the entire lifetime of the project.”
Neoen Australia has committed to setting up a community fund worth $75 000, and has offered landowners within 500 m of the site a package worth $10 000, which it considers “best practice”.
Neoen Australia also owns and operates a solar farm in Numurkah as well as another 10 projects across Australia.