Any opponents of the New England Solar Farm being constructed about six kilometres east of Uralla had a slight win this week when UPC Renewables announced the southern section of the development was deferred from the current development application.
UPC submitted its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Development Application (DA) for its 720 megawatt (MW) solar farm to the NSW Government earlier this year, proposing a project across three solar fields.
We think it is the right thing to do by the community ...Killian Wentrup
Head of solar development Killian Wentrup said the change would allow the rest of the project to progress, while further discussions with neighbouring land owners took place.
"We've been talking with the community for over a year now, and we've also recently had the public exhibition period for the EIS," he said.
"The feedback we've received has indicated that while the community, I would say, is broadly supportive of the project, the majority of the concerns that have been raised are in relation to the southern array.
"We think it is the right thing to do by the community to move forward with the northern and central array, and effectively take the southern array and put it on a different track."
Mr Wentrup said the company would continue to work with the community to try to allay its concerns, and if that was successful it would submit a new DA for a solar proposal in the southern area at a later time.
However, while it was talking to the community, UPC had a slight win too. Improvements during the last year saw solar panel output rise from 340 to 390 watts. So, even without the 400 hectare southern array, the farm will still target a generating capacity of about 700 MW which was very close to the original target.
Mr Wentrup said there had been a range of concerns raised.
"The most common concerns tend to be around proximity to nearby residences, potential impacts on property values and there have been concerns raised about visual impacts, along Thunderbolt's Way, for example," he said.
"In my experience with solar farms, the sorts of issues that we've just mentioned that have been raised tend to be limited to a small number of nearby residences.
"If you can work through those issue and find solutions such as set-backs and visual screening and so on, usually you can mitigate those issues."