Neighbour questions solar plan site

Nicolette BarbasHarvey-Waroona Reporter

A farmer has spoken out against a $200 million solar farm project, arguing the land should be used for agriculture.

Neighbour to the proposed Benger site Peter Humble told a Harvey Shire Council meeting last week there were other sites more suited to the proposal and less valuable for agriculture.

The council will tonight decide whether to approve the solar farm application.

If it gets the go ahead, the Benger Solar Farm will see solar panels installed on 187ha of agricultural land on Campbell Road, close to Partridge Road and Wellesley Road North.

“The proponents have attempted to discredit the particular property in question saying it is not really a farm, and are trying to overrule the existing rules around priority agricultural land,” Mr Humble said.

“It seems ludicrous to us that there are 5000ha of buffer zone on the other side of Worsley River that would appear to be more appropriate.

“The council have taken everything the applicant has said at face value, and unfortunately the applicant has gotten several things wrong.”

South Energy project manager Baifulaqi Du said the company did extensive research on potential land options before selecting this site.

“We did inquire about sites in Kemerton, however a solar farm is not classified as a heavy industry, which therefore means there were no suitable sites in the Kemerton coal area,” Mr Du said.

“We went through a professional consultant, Farmanco, who undertook an Agricultural Impact Assessment.”

“Farmanco did a site visit, took soil samples and tested them in the lab.

“All of the evidence we have collected so far has suggested the site in Benger is not suitable for intensive farming activities, but is suitable for a solar farm project.” Shire president Paul Gillett said site selection was not within the scope of the council’s role for this development proposal.

“The shire’s role in this process is to provide a recommendation based on the requirements of the District Planning Scheme and to complete all statutory requirements including community consultation and agency referrals,” he said.

Cr Gillett said the proponent had explored many options for suitable sites within the region.

“The site selection criteria included a large, relatively flat site which has already been cleared of native vegetation, such as this site.

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