This story about the solar energy boom shows how important it is to get the planning and the vision right if we're going to build communities where energy works for everyone:
A $3 billion solar development boom has swept across northern Victoria, with Australian, Thai, Chinese and French companies jostling to snap up irrigation and dryland properties to install millions of photovoltaic panels.
Mildura, Gannawarra, Swan Hill, Moira and Wangaratta councils have approved at least 29 solar projects. Mildura Rural City Council has signed off on seven solar farms, worth about $1.5 billion, with 11 more on the drawing board, including a Chinese developer seeking 64 square kilometres of land.
One of the largest developments to gain approval so far is the Lyon Group’s 250MW development, which will cost $660 million and involve installing 2.3 million panels at Nowingi, near the Calder Highway.
.But a lack of planning policies surrounding the solar farms is proving problematic for councils, local residents and farmers.
Municipal Association of Victoria president Mary Lalios is calling for support to help councils balance the solar boom with agricultural needs.
“There is currently no policy or controls in planning schemes specifically for assessing solar farms,” Cr Lalios said