A proposed $150 million solar farm near Camperdown is expected to create up to 150 jobs during construction.
Work on the project will start in July 2019, if the application for a planning permit lodged with Corangamite Shire is approved.
Public objections and submissions close on September 3.
The company behind the project, Bookaar Renewables, is a joint venture partnership between Infinergy Pacific and the McArthur family.
The solar farm, which will include about 700,000 solar panels, is expected to generate about 200 megawatts, enough renewable energy to supply around 80,000 average Victorian homes annually.
It would create about 150 jobs during construction and between eight and 12 full-time jobs when it’s up and running.
Construction of the solar farm would take between 12 and 15 months and is expected to be completed and fully operational by July 2020.
“The development would be operational for 30 years, after which it would be decommissioned and the site returned to its pre-development status,” the application to council states.
The proposed location of the solar farm at 520 Meningoort Road is about one kilometre west of Lake Bookaar and eight kilometres north of Camperdown.
The farm will be about one kilometre away from the heritage-listed Meningoort bluestone homestead, which was built in 1851.
The farm is expected to be surrounded by a 2.5-metre-high fence and native vegetation used to buffer the area.
A 220KV transmission line, which runs across the property, has the capacity to export electricity from the proposed development to the national electricity network.
The site was identified by Infinergy Pacific as a high-potential location in early 2016, and a feasibility and environmental assessment confirmed the site was ideal for a solar farm.
Over the 30-year lifespan of the project, it is estimated that it would reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 400,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent as well as save about 700,000 mega litres of clean drinking water compared to a coal-fired power station.
The sheer size and potential fire risk of a “massive” $150m solar farm earmarked for Bookaar has prompted objections from concerned residents.
More than 30 people turned out to a meeting about two weeks ago where the Bookaar Community Action Group was formed with a plan to educate the community about the project.
The group’s deputy chair Andrew Duynhoven said one of the main concerns was the “immense” size of the project, which he said was about seven kilometres long and 2.5 kilometres at its widest point – roughly the size of 1136 football fields.
“The clincher is that it’s 605 hectares, over 1500 acres, just by sheer size it’s an immense problem,” Mr Duynhoven said.
“The actual solar farm is the size of Camperdown, plus a quarter.
“It’s massive. It’ll probably be the biggest solar farm application in Australia at the moment.”
He said the size of the project was almost the size of four currently planned for northern Victoria combined.
“No one’s got the true information about what the ramifications are of something this size.”
Mr Duynhoven, a dairy farmer whose property is less than one kilometre from the proposed solar farm, said when he received a letter about the development earlier this year he initially thought it was a bit of a joke.
“We’re not begrudging anyone enhancing their property, but the implications on the rest of us are mind-blowing,” he said.
Mr Duynhoven said that according to the permit application, the solar panels would be located on the worst part of the property but objectors were concerned it was taking up prime agricultural land.
“Last time I looked, I don’t think dairy farms are on crap land,” he said.
Mr Duynhoven said the group aimed to educate the wider community about the visual impact of the farm on the veiws from Mount Leura, Mount Elephant and Camperdown botanic gardens.
He said they were concerned the glint and glare studies that had been done did’t go far enough.
“The UK company that did the study seems to think that once you get over seven kilometres, the glare will diminish to a moderate level so it’s not really a worrying concern to them,” he said.
“I’d like to argue that point on a sunny day.”
Mr Duynhoven, the former captain of the Bookaar CFA and currently a leading officer with the Camperdown group, said there were also concerns about the fire risks associated with the proposal.
“So just off the St Patrick’s Day fire everyone’s a bit nervous,” he said.
He said there were OHS concerns about possible toxic fumes if there was a fire and Bookaar, being the closest brigade, was not equipped to deal with it because it wasn’t a breathing apparatus brigade.
“At this stage we’ve deemed that we cannot go in there. We are excluded from the zone because of that so therefore we have to wait for the fire to come out of that facility which is a big worry because if it starts at one end it could be a seven-kilometre front.”
He said objectors were also concerned about the environmental impact on the nearby Bookaar wetlands, a Ramsar wetland with national and international significance.
There were also concerns about the traffic movements and road damage, with as many as 182 trucks a day going to the site during initial construction, he said.
He said devaluation of neighbouring properties was also an issue. “Who wants to live next door to a solar plant?”
“I’m not against solar. I’d love to have solar on the dairy, and in the near future that will occur, but I’m against the sheer scale of this.”
Mr Duynhoven said the problem with solar, unlike wind turbines, was that it hadn’t been regulated enough.
He said that there were concerns that governments, in their rush to reach renewable energy targets, were rushing “too hard, too fast and too big”.
The group will hold a public information meeting at the Camperdown botanic gardens at 1pm on Sunday.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.