AUSTRALIA'S largest solar farm is set to go ahead, following a decision by ACT Environment and Sustainable Development Minister Simon Corbell to approve the proposal to construct a 20 megawatt solar farm on land adjacent to the Monaro Highway.
Mr Corbell used his call-in powers under the Planning and Development Act 2007 to approve the Royalla Solar Farm proposal because he said it responded to a major policy issue and will deliver a substantial public benefit.
"The solar farm proposal will contribute to a reduction of around 560,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over 20 years, generating the equivalent amount of energy to power 4,400 Canberra homes," Mr Corbell said.
"The Royalla solar farm will directly contribute to meeting the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set by the ACT Government under the Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act 2010, and is consistent with the comprehensive climate change strategy we released last year, AP2."
The AP2 Strategy calls for the government to further develop large-scale renewable energy generation to achieve a target of 90 per cent of the Territory's electricity consumption to be sourced from renewable energy by 2020.
"While I am approving the development application, a number of conditions have arisen from the notification and consultation process which must be addressed before the construction can begin," Mr Corbell said.
The conditions include a requirement for the proposal to meet all environmental approvals, including implementation of an environmental management agreement, waterway works licence, contamination assessment, environment protection agreement, land management agreement and pollution control plans.
"I have also closely considered the concerns of adjacent neighbours in the Royalla rural residential area. An independent visual impact assessment has been conducted which confirms the visual impact of the proposal will be negligible for most houses in the Royalla area," the Minister said.
"The solar farm will have a low to moderate visual impact for a very small number of houses. Additional plantings to partly screen the development will be put in place to mitigate this."
"In deciding the application, I have also considered the representations received during the public notification period, the requirements of the Territory Plan and the advice of entities such as the Conservator of Flora and Fauna, the Environment Protection Authority, the ACT Heritage Council, and ActewAGL," Mr Corbell said.
The solar farm will be built on 50 hectares near Royalla, 23 kilometres south of Canberra CBD, by Spanish renewable energy company, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), which won the ACT Government's reverse auction for a 20-year Feed in Tariff entitlement.