Sunday, May 26, 2024

Council backs $5.9m Armidale solar farm contribution

Armidale Regional Councillors have unanimously endorsed an agreement with Oxley Solar Farm, a 225 MW solar farm proposed east of Armidale, for a community benefit contribution of around $5.9 million. 

Mayor Sam Coupland said he expected it would be the first of many such deals over the coming years as part of the NSW Governments New England Renewable Energy Zone (REZ).

“Our REZ will offset almost 11 percent of Australia’s current CO2 emissions and is the equivalent of planting around 500,000,000 trees or removing 12.5m cars from our roads,” said Mayor Coupland.

“Our community expect that our contribution to the national emissions task is recognised and the impacts of individual projects minimised.”

Mayor Coupland presented a statement of expectations to the NSW Government in March which outlined a number of requirements the Council expected renewable energy developers to meet if they proposed to construct wind or solar farms in the region.

He said that historically, wind and solar farms have contributed little in employment outside construction phases and “almost nothing in community benefit contributions, however, Council is now very clear that developers can expect little support if they are not engaging meaningfully with locals, minimising the impact of their project and making appropriate financial contributions to the community”.

“Oxley Solar Farm met one of those expectations by agreeing to make a community benefit contribution of $5.9 million over the next 20 years with approx. $2.79m due on commencement of construction and the remaining amount payable over 20 years. They have also significantly scaled down the original footprint of the solar farm in response to local submissions and in an attempt to minimise their impact.”

Oxley Solar Farm still needs to address a number of issues raised in public submissions in order to obtain the necessary State Government approvals, he said.

Mayor Coupland also noted that the community benefit deal doesn’t guarantee the Oxley Solar Farm will receive State Government planning approval.

“There is still a substantial part of the State Government assessment process to undergo on this project and I would encourage our community to continue to actively participate in that process,” said Mayor Coupland.

“Council intends to review thoroughly how Oxley have responded to concerns raised by the local community and will provide feedback on that to the NSW Government.”

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