COUNCILLORS are being urged to turn productive farmland into a solar facility to fuel escalating demands for green energy when they meet on Tuesday night.
Mount Alexander Shire council staff have told them to expect to have to make difficult decisions about solar bids like that in Ravenswood South, which would be capable of powering 40,000 Victorian homes.
Developer FRV Services Australia wants a planning permit to transform 263 hectares of cropping and grazing land on Hokins Road and Reids Lane into a 63 megawatt farm complete with battery storage.
Shire staff have told councillors that they will have to balance the need to protect farmland with the state government's target of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
They say the project and the 20 megawatt battery storage system that would also rise at the site would improve grid reliability and help lower energy prices because cheap power could be stored away for busy periods.
"Some loss of agricultural land has to be expected given the scale of solar energy facilities and their locational requirements," council staff said.
A swathe of renewable energy projects are rising across the country to replace ageing and dirty coal-fired power stations, many of them solar installations in central and northern Victoria.
North of Bendigo, projects capable of supplying 4000mw of renewable energy - nearly double the amount Victoria's largest coal fired power station, Loy Yang A - are already operating, being built or have planning approval.
But the rush for land has raised concerns about the impact on farming zones, including in Ravenswood South.
A 2014 Loddon Mallee South Regional Growth Plan did not deem that area to be agriculturally significant, but the site has been used in the past for cropping and grazing in the past and was "locally productive", shire staff said.
"The use and development will not prevent the ongoing use of surrounding land for agricultural purposes," they noted.
Overall, the council received seven objections to the Ravenswood South solar bid and one in support.
Objectors raised a number of other concerns including glare and glint from the solar panels.
Council staff said the developers would use landscaping to obscure views into the site and that a glint and glare assessment found no hazards.
Seven trees scattered through the site would be removed but developers plan to replace them with native vegetation planted under the guidance of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
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