A proposed 270-hectare solar farm could lock away valuable agricultural land for at least 30 years, objectors fear.
The 100 megawatt solar farm would be built in Derby, between Bendigo and Bridgewater and will be debated tomorrow afternoon at a Loddon Shire council meeting.
Shire staff have recommended councillors approve the AcEnergy development, along with the removal of native vegetation.
Three people objected to the plan at the site, which is currently used for cropping and grazing.
"I believe these types of projects should, if possible, be built on ground of low agricultural value," one argued.
"The ground at Derby is of high agricultural value and I believe other, lower value country could have been found."
Yet there are only limited locations in Victoria that suit solar energy facilities,engineering consultants Chris Smith and Associates wrote on behalf of AcEnergy.
This one would sit in an area that gets a lot of sun and is bisected by a 66kC electricity line, they said in a submission to the council.
"Whilst we acknowledge that all land holds and inherent agricultural value, this falls on a spectrum," the engineers wrote.
The site does not sit in a recognised irrigation district and there are generally more productive soils elsewhere in the shire, they added.
Below: Derby (note, map denotes area's location, not the site of the proposed solar farm). Story continues below map.
Objectors also raised concerns about how the development would look.
A Loddon Shire planning officer had been in an "ongoing discussion" with AcEnergy about the site, which is close to the Calder Highway and could be visible to passing cars.
Those discussions resulted in AcEnergy suggesting a "10 metre wide visial landscape buffer" and screening that will go in before construction begins, the Loddon Shire report stated.
Three rows of native plants rising at least two metres tall will be laid out near site boundaries.
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AcEnergy has also submitted a weed management strategy to tackle issues with noxious plants at the site. Stock could be allowed to graze on site but the strategy outlines a preference for herbicides and slashing more often.
Applicants have met with objectors on three occasions, according to the council staff report.
The solar farm would take 10 months to build, with as many as nine trucks and 60 smaller vehicles going in and out of the site every day.
AcEnergy will lease the land for 30 years.
If the lease is not renewed, AcEnergy will need to decomission the solar farm and potentially rehabilitate it to a level that satisfies the council and landowners, the council report stated.