A proposed solar farm may be the first of its kind in the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale Shire but not everyone is happy, with some residents arguing it will damage the rural feel of Oakford.
Clean energy development company WestGen is proposing to construct the 29.7 megawatt alternating current on 75.7 hectares of land comprising Lot 200, 210, and 1001 Thomas Road.
By comparison, the Greenough River Solar Farm, which was Australia’s first and largest utility-scale solar farm when built in 2012, is a 10 MW power station covering an area of 80 hectares.
The Oakford project would include fixed position solar panels, a switchyard area consisting of a main office building, a storage shed and three switch rooms, a parking area, a tourist viewing area with benches, seats and an elevated viewing platform and a boundary security fence with screening vegetation.
According to WestGen’s submission, the site was a good location for the project, being almost flat with high levels of solar radiation through the year.
The submission stated ‘its location means it will not be close to any residences, and given that most of the land it will be on has been set aside for future high voltage transmission lines and a large network terminal, it is consistent in planning terms with the use of that land’.
Oakford resident Michael Dagostino disagreed, arguing the solar farm was essentially an industrial pursuit that would be more suitable in a place such as the future West Mundijong Industrial Precinct.
“We want to maintain the rural land and if you read the shire’s draft rural policy it’s all about maintaining the rural theme and maintaining agriculture,” he said.
“I just think putting what is effectively an industrial use in a completely rural area is completely inconsistent.
“(The shire is) planning for a whole new industrial area down the corner of Kargotich and Mundijong Road – it’s hundreds and hundreds of acres of industrial land close to Tonkin Highway and I understand it would cost more but surely it would be more suitable around there.
“When you drive down Thomas Road all you see is cows and horses – it’s just completely inconsistent.”
He said he was also concerned about the removal of mature trees on the site.
Mr Dagostino said he and some neighbours were in the process of forming a lobby group.
Public comment for the proposal closed on July 1 and it had yet to come before council.
Shire president John Erren said this was the first application of its kind that had progressed to a formal development and there were currently no specific planning policies in place.
“The shire does not have a specific local planning policy in this regard and therefore in the absence of a specific policy framework the shire will make a recommendation regarding the solar farm on its merits,” he said.
“This recommendation will be forwarded to the Joint Development Assessment Panel as the shire is not the final decision-making authority in this case.”
WestGen could not be reached for comment.