A Dalton action group has called on the backers of a solar farm to engage in meaningful consultation with residents.
Australians Against Dalton Power Project member Phil Waine says Gunning district solar farm proponents Photon Energy can learn some lessons from his village’s experience. There, residents have rallied against AGL’s reignited proposal for a $1.5 billion gas fired power plant, 4km from the village.
Mr Waine says solar is a much more “sensible” way of addressing the nation’s energy challenges.
“The general feeling is one of support. It’s just the way they go about the consultation,” he said.
“It’s ridiculous that AGL and now Energy Australia are considering gas peaking stations. My personal opinion is that renewables are coming on strongly and technology is improving so rapidly that by the time AGL’s plant is built in two years, we could end up with a white elephant on the hill that has to be factored into energy prices.
“At the same time we have the Snowy II scheme being considered, which seems far more logical.”
Energy Australia also announced last week that it would review the need for its gas fired power plant near Marulan, put on hold in 2012 due to a stated oversupply in the energy market.
Mr Waine said he’d contacted Photon Energy executives making them aware that the community had experience in dealing with major proposals.
“I’ve told them that it’s best to open and honest because some landowners are not 100 per cent supportive,” he said.
“...The group is there for them because we have experience in these types of things.”
Photon Energy wants to build a $380 million solar farm on Lade Vale Road, 12km southwest of Gunning. The 316 megawatt project would comprise hundreds of thousands of solar panels and eventually storage capacity. But one resident, Tracy Bassett, said although she philosophically supported solar technology, she didn’t want her property surrounded on two sides by solar panels.
Road impact during construction and traffic management have also flared as concerns.
The company is holding a community consultation session at Upper Lachlan Shire Council Chambers in Gunning at 6.30pm on Wednesday, July 26.
Mr Waine and fellow members are planning to attend. Photon Energy managing director Michael Gartner told the Goulburn Post last week that his company wanted to engage in genuine consultation and alleviate people’s concerns.
Meantime, Dalton residents are continuing their fight against the gas fired power station. AGL has advertised for expressions of interest by July 31 to join a community consultative committee. However the community wanted to use a July 26 AGL hosted meeting to ask questions about the company’s vision for the committee.
As the date clashed with Photon Energy’s meeting, residents have asked AGL to postpone the session and extend the deadline for expressions of interest in order to make an “informed decision.”
Mr Waine said AGL had agreed to do so. He also took them to task for wanting to hold the meeting in Gunning where they considered facilities to be less cramped and more comfortable.
He maintained that the company was not meaningfully consulting with them and that residents were receiving “second hand information.”
However he appreciated that the Department of Planning’s director of resource assessments, Mike Young visited the village last Tuesday for a site inspection in response to community concerns.
“It was nice to have that opportunity,” Mr Waine said
AGL is responding to public submissions as part of the extension of approval process before the Department.
The current approval expires on July 31. AGL is seeking a two-year extension on the approval to review the plant’s need.