Solar farm given green light despite Goondiwindi concerns

Moree Plains Shire Council's Stephen Ritchie and Sue Price, Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel's Garry West, Pam Westing and Stephen Gow.
Moree Plains Shire Council's Stephen Ritchie and Sue Price, Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel's Garry West, Pam Westing and Stephen Gow.

The Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel green lighted two major solar farm projects in the Moree Plains Shire on Thursday, amid heated public concern for one of the sites at Boggabilla.

“Our submission is purely based on the flooding aspects and the possible affect … the new development will have on the town,” Goondiwindi Regional Mayor, Cr Graeme Scheu said.

A 4.99 MW solar farm is to be set up 12km north-west of Boggabilla, along Kentucky Road. The $6 million project will comprise of two solar arrays, three blocks wide and eight blocks long and sit on the left bank of the Macintyre River, opposite Goondiwindi.

Cr Scheu took to the floor at the panel meeting on Thursday to air his concerns about the potential impact the solar site would have on the Queensland town’s current flood protection measures.

“Far too much is at stake to not address the concerns of 6,000 residents in Goondiwindi,” he said.

A levee bank was constructed around the Queensland border town in 1956 in the wake of devastating floods.

According to Mr Sheu, the levee now protects in excess of 1, 200 properties on the Queensland side.

Goondiwindi resident Rob Tweedy said he was concerned that the proposed chain mesh fence around the solar farm would counter the purpose of the levee.

“I live straight opposite the development site … [I am concerned] whether the fences around the panels will build up the debris and force water back towards Goondiwindi.”

Cr Scheu called for a halt to the development of the site, until the flood modelling and planning took into account the accumulative affects of potential floods.

Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel chair Garry West said the project would proceed and also take all community concerns in its stride.

“It [the solar farm project] can proceed, provided that the necessary conditions are in place to provide the best protection as they can under the circumstances that are presented to us today,” he said.

SMK Consultants were taken on to undertake a Kentucky Flood and Debris Assessment in the lead up to the meeting on Thursday.

The report noted that while the chain mesh fence around the solar farm would carry some debris the potential of the site to block the floodwater was minor. 

The report recommended that strategic sections of the chain mesh fence be modified to allow some passage of floodwater and any flood debris. In this way, the integrity of the Goondiwindi town levee bank would not be impacted.

The Northern Joint Regional Council also waved through a 4.99 MW Solar Farm to proceed at Bullarah. The $6 million project will be located along the Gwydir Highway, 95km west of Moree.